COVID-19: advice for employers as health restrictions in Alberta ease

With Albertans receiving word on Friday that all of the province’s COVID-19 health restrictions are set to lift on July 1, many employers will soon begin welcoming staff back to the office.

“We really become a part of the family, if you will, with clients,” Craig Baun with Baun Investment Group at Wellington-Altus Private Wealth said.  “One of the hardest parts about the pandemic is not being able to meet with these people in person.”

Throughout the pandemic, Baun said employees have been accommodated and were able to work remotely — although now, most of them are back in the office.

Read more: COVID-19: Alberta public health measures to end on July 1

“We’ve adapted quite well and have cloud-based, leading-edge technology,” Baun explained. “So we can work quite efficiently and have access to all our systems.”

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“However, with a lot of  people having young families, they found it was nice to have a place to go and focus on work.”

It’s a struggle many Canadians have been faced with for over a year as health restrictions changed throughout the course of the pandemic.

“I think it’s a really, shockingly, a hot button item for a lot of companies right now,” Andrew Caldwell with Peninsula Canada said. “In the States, you hear a lot of CEOs saying, ‘too bad. If you can go to the restaurant, (then) you can come into the office.’”

Caldwell said he’s hearing similar themes in Canada, with employers concerned about company morale and trying to give new hires the ‘company experience’.

Read more: What should we do now? Global’s Community and Culture Panel looks at options for an open summer

However, employees are also pushing back.

“Especially the more seasoned employees of a business who have been there for a while,” Caldwell explained. “They know their role and they know what they’re doing.”

“What we’ve been trying to advise our clients, is trying to find that balance that works for you and your employees.”

“You can make a blanket plan for the business, but someone might come in and throw a wrench into that.”

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Peninsula Canada represents more than 5,000 clients across Alberta, B.C. and Ontario and has seen a 50/50 split when it comes to organizations bringing people back into the office.

“We have a lot of clients who are not set up for remote working,” Caldwell said. “They’ve been working through the pandemic, so they’ve been setting up their health and safety measures.”

“Others have been able to do 100 per cent remote working and have sold their office space because they just don’t need it.”

Read more: Remote work isn’t a trend. It’s a fundamental shift in Canada’s work culture

Caldwell explained more organizations are also looking at hotel desks where employees schedule to use their workspace so they can have the best of both worlds.

“It’s going to be up to the business to make that decision and feel comfortable with maybe not having some employees come back.”

Trent Danielson, a senior investment advisor at the Baun Investment Group, said he’s happy to be back in the office and hopes to have a mix of both in the future.

“Being at home is definitely a challenge, you need to organize yourself a lot differently,” he said. “Getting back to the office is a lot better, you’re able to talk to people and be around that energy.”

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Caldwell also said it’s important for businesses to make sure their employees’ mental well-being is also being supported.

“I think employee assistance programs are crucial,” he said. “I would say over the last year, I think they’ve probably been utilized more than any other service that employers have provided.”

“It’s private, it’s confidential and employees can call in about whatever matter that’s struggling with.”

Baun said he’s enjoying having his workgroup together again and is now looking forward to potentially travelling.

“We have clients right across the country and abroad, so I’m really looking forward to seeing my clients in Victoria, Vancouver and out east. it’s been a long time.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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