November 18, 2021

Canadian Research Center Publishes COVID-19 Return-to-Office Guide

A Canadian occupational health and safety research center, the Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST), has published Returning to the Office After the COVID-19 Health Crisis: An Approach to Transitioning to a New Organization of Work (PDF), a free guide available for download in both English and French. The guide proposes a practical method that organizations can use to plan their employees’ return to a hybrid work environment, incorporating both remote and in-person arrangements. This publication is part of a report that IRSST plans to publish in 2022, but the research team elected to release the guide sooner based on workplaces’ need for materials to support OHS during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Citing a French-language survey of human resources consultants, IRSST’s guide states that most employers are working toward hybrid solutions requiring employees to maintain a limited physical presence at the workplace. In charting this path, however, the guide’s authors caution against “a centralized, non-participatory approach to developing return to office arrangements.” IRSST researchers highlight the ways that employees adapted to the pandemic with individualized work strategies, and encourage employers to use a participatory approach that incorporates the input of all employees of an organization.

The guide’s approach follows a series of principles based broadly around encouraging adaptability, inclusion, and effective communication. A model is provided that envisions the relationship between components of work reorganization in the post-pandemic world. A three-phase, stepwise process for the work reorganization process, tips for supporting employees’ well-being, and examples taken from the pandemic operations of a Canadian provincial administration are also included in the guide.

According to the authors, this version of the guide is preliminary and will be updated as additional information becomes available. The guide is intended to be adaptable, with not every recommendation applying to every workplace.

More information about the new guide can be found on IRSST’s website. A brief news update about the publication is also available.