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Does the option to work from home make for a better work-life balance?

Does working from home allow employees to have a better work-life balance and therefore a better work-life relationship? Winnipeggers are weighing in. Morsa Images/Getty Images

Does working from home allow employees to have a better work-life balance and therefore a better work-life relationship? Winnipeggers are weighing in.

The question has been raised a lot lately. Working from home never used to be the norm except for specific jobs but when the COVID-19 pandemic hit two years ago, it became a lot more popular and definitely took some adjustment.

“I have been working from home since the end of March 2020. It takes some time to get used to it and, during the closures, it was hard never leaving the house,” said Janet Rogocki of Winnipeg.

Now, things are changing once again and employers are starting to ask employees to return to the office full-time. Some employees are pushing back, with some even saying they will quit and find other employment if they don’t have the option to work from home, according to an Ipsos poll from May 6.

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It turns out some employees have gotten used to the workflow at home and have even come to realize that it benefits their lifestyle.

“I feel we are more productive working from home as there are no chat breaks, fewer coffee breaks and shorter lunch breaks,” Rogocki said.

Employees have also expressed apprehension to return to the office due to the commute required — especially given the current price of gas.

Click to play video: 'Gas prices up again in Winnipeg' Gas prices up again in Winnipeg
Gas prices up again in Winnipeg – Jun 1, 2022

Currently, the price for a litre of regular gas in Winnipeg is sitting at $2.07 at most gas stations and experts have said that isn’t expected to drop.

The price of regular gasoline has jumped over the $2.00/litre mark in Winnipeg. Global News / Skylar Peters

“We’re looking at continued surges in prices. It’s just absolutely amazing,” Patrick De Haan of GasBuddy.com told 680 CJOB on June 1.

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Unfortunately, for some Winnipeggers, the commute ends up being too pricey to justify leaving the work-from-home environment.

“Considering the price of gas and parking for each day can cost $25 to $30, the price of gas going up now doesn’t help the timing of asking employees to come back,” said Chris McColm of Winnipeg.

HR expert Tory McNally from Legacy Bowes said employers feel like they have been doing the best they can to retain their employees by being accomodating and open.

Click to play video: 'Future of work and office expectations' Future of work and office expectations
Future of work and office expectations – Jun 2, 2022

Leanne Kutchma, an office manager at MicroAge Manitoba, said she is a huge believer in having a good work-life balance for her staff.

“We are an IT company and so we easily have the means that most of the employees are working from home for most of their work weeks,” she said.

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Kutchma said all staff worked from the office prior to the pandemic. The initial intention was for working from home to be temporary and to bring staff back after the pandemic. That is no longer the case.

“It seems that working from home is working really well. Whoever wants to work from the office can, but it seems everyone is comfortable at home.”

Downtown Winnipeg Biz started the process of bringing people back to the office around April or May and said it definitely took some time.

“We’re seeing that slow trend — it’s a slow return. When talking with employers, they (say they) really are looking at doing a phased-in approach,” Biz director Kate Fenske told 680 CJOB on April 18.

However, working from home isn’t all positive and does come with some downsides particularly involving staff connections.

“The staff that are working from the office every day (nine out of 25 staff) have a good bond and friendship, Everyone else seems so far away and disconnected,” Kutchma said.

“In the office, you have the ability to meet with people and there is something to be said about social interaction with your team,” McColm said.

Employees have also expressed worries that working from home could potentially impact future opportunities for career advancement due to the distance between employees and management.

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“If you can imagine two co-workers who are doing the same job, one is deciding to go into the office, seeing the boss every day, having that water cooler talk and the joking friend relationship,” McNally said.

“The other who’s doing the very same tasks is working from home and so the worry is, the one that’s going in and rubbing shoulders will be able to actually achieve that promotion,” she added.

Employers are doing their best to mitigate this concern by making sure to keep up engagement with their out-of-office staff.

Read more: The future of the workplace, 2 years into the pandemic

“Some people love working from home, some people hate working from home,” said Patrick O’Reilly, CEO of Padraig Coaching and Consulting, in an interview with Global News on May 27.

“But at the end of the day, what we know is that work can get done in different ways than it has before, so there’s a lot of expectations of employers now to be more flexible in their work arrangements with their staff,” he added.

O’Reilly said many employers are trying to find a balance between flexibility for their staff and ensuring the company is working together cohesively and collaboratively.

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“I make an effort to engage all staff in remote games to win monthly prizes. We will have three in-person larger group events every year as well,” Kutchma said.

Additionally, now that people’s work is in their homes, it can be difficult to switch off and close the door on their work day.

“I enjoy my home, I dislike that my company is now in my home, and sometimes it’s tempting to work during off times,” said Kat Greer of Winnipeg.

The solution that some workers hope for is to work in a hybrid environment so they can experience the best of both worlds — so to speak.

“I love the idea of the flexibility of being able to work in the office a few days a week with the option of working remote,” McColm said.

“Mornings in the office and afternoons at home some days, some days fully at home,” Kutchma said.

Click to play video: 'Downtown Winnipeg business owners hoping to see employees back in the office' Downtown Winnipeg business owners hoping to see employees back in the office
Downtown Winnipeg business owners hoping to see employees back in the office – May 12, 2022

— with files from Marney Blunt and Sam Thompson

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