Katy Langlais
Manager | CRHA, MBA | Human resources consulting

Even though remote work is still recommended, it’s no longer mandatory and workers will gradually be returning to the office. Should your organization consider a hybrid work model?

This is the big question. After finally hitting their stride in the new work-from-home reality, companies are having to develop plans to bring employees back to the workplace. Many organizations are wondering whether they should opt for a hybrid setup, with some days of telecommuting and the rest in person. Or should everyone just come back to the office full-time?

The hybrid work model: pros and cons
How to adjust to the hybrid work mode

The hybrid work model: pros and cons

Managers are currently facing an unprecedented situation and unfortunately there’s no proven formula for navigating these uncharted waters. Companies need to weigh the pros and cons of the various possible work arrangements and choose the one that bests suits their needs in today’s new reality. They should also leave room for adjustments in case the model needs fine-tuning down the line.

According to a CROP survey conducted in May 2021 for the Ordre des CRHA-CRIA du Québec, 38% of workers would rather continue working from home full-time, while 24% would like to be given the freedom to choose and 18% would prefer following a hybrid model set by their employer. Additionally, 23% of respondents said going into the office is worthwhile for meetings and team discussions.

The hybrid model is generally considered the most attractive because it lets employers and employees reap the benefits of telework while keeping the drawbacks in check. To help you decide what’s best for your company, here’s a summary of the pros and cons of remote work.

Advantages of teleworking for employees

  • Time savings and productivity gains;
  • More autonomy in carrying out duties;
  • Reduced stress, as there is less direct pressure from managers and fewer disruptions caused by background noise or chatty coworkers;
  • Less money spent on transportation, parking and meals;
  • Improved quality of life and wellness (work/life/family balance);
  • Better for the environment thanks to reduced transportation.

Advantages of teleworking for employers

  • Reduced monthly expenses (e.g., leased office space);
  • Increased productivity (no travel time or unexpected disturbances);
  • Decreased presenteeism and absenteeism;
  • Larger pool of potential candidates (workers who live in remote areas or have reduced mobility);
  • Improved profitability;
  • Better for the environment;
  • Enhanced talent attraction and retention (thanks to a better employee experience).

Disadvantages of teleworking for employees

  • Risk of psychological distress (loneliness and isolation);
  • Frequent distractions for some workers (children, neighbourhood, television, etc.);
  • Hard to disconnect from work;
  • Decreased sense of belonging and dedication to the company;
  • Increased risk of injury due to poor ergonomics (neck pain, back pain, dry eyes, etc.);
  • Harder to make a name for yourself in the workplace (promotion/salary);
  • Skill development is less organic;
  • Harder to forge social ties with colleagues and supervisors.

Disadvantages of teleworking for employers

Consult our thematic section on teleworking to learn more about its different facets and to help you improve your remote work practices.

How to adjust to the hybrid work mode

If your organization opts for a hybrid work model, there are a few key things you’ll need to set up and adjust as needed.

Get the right work tools

When the pandemic first hit, a lot of companies had to make a quick switch to remote work, even though they didn’t necessarily have the tools their employees needed to work efficiently. As a result, they grappled with things like a lack of mobile computer equipment, Internet network issues and trouble accessing information because it was stored on site and not digitally. If this was the case for your business, you should:

  • Create or update your list of the workstation equipment required for each position, taking proper ergonomics into consideration (e.g., headset, tablet, laptop, ergonomic chair, screens, etc.);
  • Assess your current IT systems to make sure they can support your preferred work model (e.g., integrated management system to ensure the integrity and availability of required information).

Don’t forget to consider cybersecurity. This is a critical element, both on the company’s premises and when working remotely.

Develop a formal communications structure

In many organizations, communications are mainly in the form of informal, in-person conversations. When you switch to a hybrid work model, you’ll need a more formal internal communications structure to make sure important information flows in both directions and is relayed to everyone as needed.

Organizations should also establish criteria to help people decide when meetings should happen face-to-face and when it’s ok to talk remotely. The deciding factors should include the purpose of the meeting, the topics you need to cover, the people invited to attend and the number of participants required. Here are some tips for taking action:

  • List all current meetings and make sure you cover all management levels (e.g., team, management committee, executive committee or project kick-off, ideation, kaizen, etc.);
  • Determine the main meeting objectives, participants and recommended format (in-person or remote).

Adjust your HR management practices

All human resources (HR) management practices are affected by your work setup. Organizations that choose a hybrid model will almost certainly need to adjust their practices to suit the new work arrangement.

From the outset, companies will need to clarify what they expect from employees (work from home vs. from the office) using a survey and formal telework policy. Other ideas include:

  • Adjusting the onboarding process to allow new recruits to meet their colleagues and develop a sense of belonging within the organization;
  • Adjusting the communication method used for employee performance appraisals (in-person or virtual meeting). Ideally, these meetings should happen face-to-face, but managers may also have to make adjustments to suit the meeting location and approach;
  • Reviewing the criteria assessed during performance appraisals. Performance appraisals should focus more on achieving results and participating in projects. 360 reviews were very popular in the past, but they were very difficult to do as they involved input from managers, peers, customers and suppliers. However, the peer review aspect could become more interesting since working virtually requires different communication and interaction skills than in-person setups;
  • Protecting worker health and wellness by adopting a policy that gives them the right to disconnect.

While hybrid work arrangements remain challenging for organizations to implement, this revolutionary shift has many benefits. So much so, in fact, that we’re sure to see a turning point in the market. Whether or not you decide to adopt this approach, you will need to remain flexible and sensitive to your employees needs during this adjustment period.

Our experts can assist you throughout this process to implement winning and engaging solutions with your teams.

07 Jul 2021  |  Written by :

Katy Langlais is a recruiting and human resources consulting at Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton.

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The Grant Thornton International IFRS team has published Insights into IFRS 13 – Fair Value Measurement.

IFRS 13 Fair Value Measurement explains how to measure fair value by providing clear definitions and introducing a single set of requirements for almost all fair value measurements. It clarifies how to measure fair value when a market becomes less active.

IFRS 13 applies to both financial and non-financial items but does not address or change the requirements on when fair value should be used.

The publication Insights into IFRS 13 not only summarises the standard, it also provides detailed commentary on various aspects of applying IFRS 13 from the perspective of a preparer working alongside a valuation expert.

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The construction industry’s future will be shaped by innovation and collaboration between all industry stakeholders.

This is what we heard from Pierre Pomerleau, the president and CEO of Pomerleau Inc., when he sat down with Emilio B. Imbriglio, the president and CEO of Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton, for a One on One Rendez-vous presented by the Association québécoise des entrepreneurs en infrastructure (AQEI).

Pierre Pomerleau confirmed that the construction industry is “advancing in leaps and bounds” thanks to the increasingly widespread use of technology, as well as continuous improvement efforts and innovative collaboration methods.

“Innovation has long been part of Pomerleau’s DNA,” he said, adding that it’s also the key to overcoming the various challenges affecting construction projects. Innovation allows teams to work faster, more efficiently and more sustainably, while maximizing return on investment.

“Innovation is extremely important. For instance, improving project scheduling by just 10% would save hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide,” said Pierre Pomerleau.

“The best-kept secret in innovation is in the construction industry,” said Emilio B. Imbriglio.

Cultivating innovation

Pierre Pomerleau emphasized that all industry players—both large and small—need to get on the innovation bandwagon. You don’t need to embark on a major innovation initiative: you just need to target your company’s key processes.

To cultivate innovation, you need to start conversations about it and find ways to promote it within your organization. “First, you need to set up innovation infrastructure. Innovation should flow upward from all company teams. People working out at job sites need to know that they’re not just on the receiving end of procedures; they can also propose ideas on how to change things for the better. At the same time, the organization needs to be able to make use of these suggestions and disseminate them throughout across their work sites.”

With this in mind, Pomerleau established an Operational Excellence Foundation in 2018. It’s tasked with optimizing the company’s performance by promoting valuable innovations across all Pomerleau construction sites.

More recently, the company launched aXLab Pomerleau, in partnership with Factry, on its Montreal campus. The lab will put a variety of innovative ideas to the test and conduct a global technology watch,” explained Carolyne Filion, who acts as the company’s Manager of Innovation, R&D and Special Projects.

Pomerleau’s innovations don’t stop there. In early 2020, it was the first construction company in the world to use Spot, an autonomous four-legged robot, at its construction sites. Spot can reach dangerous areas and perform routine tasks.

Carolyne Filion pointed out that, for the past 10 years, the Building Information Modeling (BIM) process has been the cornerstone of innovation in the buildings field. It has enabled data standardization at all project stages and led to better stakeholder collaboration. Now the civil infrastructure sector is adopting a similar process for data standardization with Civil Information Modeling (CIM).

Collaboration drives progress

Pierre Pomerleau believes the pandemic accelerated progress. The industry discovered that it could adapt to rapidly changing needs through innovation and collaboration.

“During the pandemic, we realized that if public clients and contractors worked more collaboratively, we could do miracles,” he said. As an example, Pierre Pomerleau cited the five COVID-19 clinics his company built in just nine months.

He firmly believes that the whole industry benefits when stakeholders work together as partners, as demonstrated by the Entrepreneurs engagés movement led by several industry players. They quickly implemented strict, standardized sanitary measures on construction sites to prevent COVID-19 from spreading among workers and, in doing so, they protected operational continuity.

Pierre Pomerleau thinks we’ll see more and more collaborative development projects, such as build-finance arrangements and public-private partnerships, because they “create creative tension” that’s beneficial for the projects and the communities they serve. This is already paying off, as demonstrated by the most recent construction phase of the new Université de Montréal Hospital Centre (CHUM).

“Today, all levels of government are looking for ways to encourage collaborative development. We’ll never go back to siloed construction methods, that’s for sure. Each project has its own delivery method. You need to consider the specific considerations affecting each project. Determining the delivery method is the most important decision in a project,” he added.

The seasoned entrepreneur would like to see alternative project delivery methods used for smaller public projects, so that smaller players can get into the game and gain experience using new construction methods. He also emphasized the importance of supporting smaller contractors, “to make sure the whole supply chain flourishes,” as governments did during the pandemic.

In addition, Pierre Pomerleau believes that public project owners need to find project management methods that don’t hinder agility and innovation. They need to be more flexible when issuing calls for tender and when reviewing innovations proposed by general contractors. Doing so would allow alternative delivery methods to evolve.

In the closing remarks, Caroline Amireault, a lawyer and executive director of the AQEI, pointed out that local entrepreneurs have lost interest in public-sector projects in recent years.

Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton recently led a construction industry consultation which found that 72% of general contractors can’t be bothered with public contracts because of the conditions that come with them. This loss of interest is rooted in major constraints and unbalanced risk sharing, said Caroline Amireault, but fortunately “change is in the air.”

“Regulatory changes are on the horizon, and I think that’s extremely positive,” said Pierre Pomerleau.

Addressing today’s most pressing challenges

Innovating can also make companies more efficient and allow them to overcome the challenges posed by the labour shortage. Pomerleau hired 350 people in the past year and the company works hard to provide its employees with adequate training, onboarding and equipment, while also promoting diversity and inclusion.

“You have to seek out latent talent and stimulate it by giving workers value-added responsibilities.” New technologies can relieve workers from having to do repetitive and non-value added tasks.

Innovation can also help address environmental challenges, with the development of new construction methods, more efficient use of materials and recycling. “By finding innovative ways to save the planet, we can also save money. It’s profitable,” said Pierre Pomerleau.

For instance, while working on the Champlain Bridge deconstruction project, his company is making environmental protection and waste material recovery top priorities.

Finally, innovation is essential for designing smart cities, which start with smart structures. Pomerleau is highly interested in the concept of empathetic infrastructures and buildings, which are designed to be perfectly aligned with user needs.

Strong growth across the board

Pomerleau is Quebec’s largest construction company and an industry leader in the country. The industry is growing rapidly, and so is Pomerleau, which currently has nearly 300 active projects across Canada.

Initially a family business, Pomerleau was founded 57 years ago by Hervé Pomerleau, the father of the current CEO. The company is currently focusing on Canada and counting on organic growth, but Pierre Pomerleau says he’s open to acquisitions in the coming years. Its subsidiary Borea Construction, which is Canada’s leading renewable energy construction company, is keenly interested in New England’s wind power projects.

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If companies want to keep up with new consumer demands, they need to innovate, adapt and include technology in their business model.

For many organizations, the pandemic provided an opportunity to accelerate their digital transformation and modernize their customer experience to remain competitive in a changing market.

Evolving consumer needs are gradually reshaping the role of tourism businesses and the experiences they offer. And the change is good for everyone involved! Technology is helping businesses adjust to new consumer demands and provide:

  • Secure service;
  • Information and services accessible anywhere, at any time;
  • A personalized offer.

Digital transformation has become essential for tourism businesses that want to grow and future-proof their operations.

Aligning your transformation with your strategic priorities

Before embarking on a digital transformation journey, you need to take stock of your current situation and confirm your company’s mission so that you can develop a clear vision of what you want to achieve. Specifically, this involves:

  • Performing a detailed review of market trends and the competition;
  • Gaining an in-depth appreciation of the issues your company faces;
  • Understanding your current processes and their limitations;
  • Reviewing your customer experience;
  • Analyzing your technologies;
  • Ensuring your human resources are managed appropriately;
  • Aligning your digital transformation with your business strategies.

Going through these steps will give you a stronger sense of where you stand, allow you to make more informed decisions and ensure your digital transformation is aligned with your strategic priorities. In turn, these priorities will help you determine which business needs are essential and could benefit from new technologies or data valorization tools.

New avenues for improving the customer experience

Today’s tools and technologies can make all the difference in helping businesses provide tourists with a superior experience that’s both authentic and personalized. This is true across the board, from activities to accommodations, public transportation and customer service. Naturally, maintaining a good customer experience involves striking a balance between convenient technologies and support from live personnel.

For example, a growing number of hotels are offering guests a digital check-in service and the chance to personalize their rooms without having to go through the front desk.

Certain hotels and other innovative businesses, such as restaurants, travel agencies, sports complexes and entertainment venues, have partnered together to offer customers a seamless and personalized experience.

Case study: Le P’tit Train du Nord

Le P’tit Train du Nord in the Laurentides, has successfully made use of digital technology by including a mapping system in its website to enhance the user experience. The map provides cyclists with a variety of helpful information, including:

  • Location of kilometre markers;
  • Bike repair stations;
  • Restaurants, cafés and microbreweries;
  • Public washrooms;
  • Road types (paved or rock dust);
  • Accommodations and camping sites;
  • Nearby activities and businesses.

Meanwhile, some cities are creating mobile apps that use artificial intelligence to provide tourists with personalized recommendations. Based on a number of factors, the app pushes relevant content that can further stimulate the local economy.

Véloroute: an app that strengthens partnerships

Véloroute des Bleuets has added interactive maps to the Ondago app, which displays local partner organizations within 5 km of the trail. Since the suggestions are personalized based on the cyclist’s interests, users enjoy a better experience and local partners get seen by the right consumer segments.

“We’re able to track how many users are referred by the app to a specific establishment, so that we can keep our partners informed and add value to our offer. The more customers the app brings in, the more partners want to join. And the more partners we have on board, the more useful the app is for users. It’s a positive loop,” said David Lecointre, general manager of Véloroute des Bleuets.

Useful information to drive continuous improvement

Digital transformation also lets companies extract insights from data to support decision-making. The goal is to improve the offer to suit consumer demands and needs.

Companies that succeed in creating an excellent digital experience will fare best in the post pandemic period because they’ll build loyalty among their existing customer base and meet the needs of prospective customers.

Financial assistance for digital transformation projects

Did you know? Various financial assistance programs are available to help companies implement digital transformation plans that suit their needs and industry.

Contact your regional tourism association to inquire about out the deadline to apply for financial aid under the Regional Tourism Partnership Agreement (RTPA). There are also various possibilities for support specific to digital transformation, as well as the additional support for tourism businesses. You may also be eligible for programs to support post-pandemic recovery.

The tourism, leisure and culture industry is changing quickly, as consumers are increasingly in control and seeking an improved customer experience.

For businesses, the pandemic simply accelerated the need to rethink their strategic plans and adjust their business models. Some companies were quick to respond and managed to weather the pandemic better than others. In many cases, they did so by prioritizing digital transformation. The shift is good for consumers, but it promises to be beneficial for businesses, too.

Get assistance from a strategic planning and digital transformation expert. A knowledgeable person will be able to guide you through the entire process.