The Future of Work Starts Now

From home office tools to workplace incentives, a new report by Staples Canada uncovers what employees and employers are truly feeling

Alongside the adaptability Canadians have shared among many virtual calls and remote meetings, an important conversation around workplace structures has emerged in recent years. Not only have businesses managed to survive alternative working measures imposed by the pandemic, but many have discovered the unforeseen benefits of remote and hybrid work. Is the future of work in sight, or has it already begun?

“The pandemic simply accelerated the conversation around evolved working norms and what the future of work could look like,” says David Boone, CEO of Staples Canada. “Businesses were already seeking new ways to keep employees engaged and productive.” In partnership with Angus Reid Group, Staples Canada conducted an online survey among a representative sample of 1,010 employees and 505 employers within Canada to produce the Future of Work Trend Report. The result is a detailed portrait of Canada’s workforce keen on flexibility, work-life balance and workplace structures that regenerate productivity. 

In discussion with Canadian Business, Boone shares key findings from the Future of Work Trend Report, what it means for Canada’s small businesses and the tools they need to set themselves (and their employees) up for success.

Why is now such a pivotal moment for the future of work? 

The pandemic served as a catalyst, jump-starting the conversation about where, when and how we work. As we continue to adapt to new working norms, we’re seeing that some companies are still lacking a clear plan for their modes of work going forward. Being flexible and landing on the right mix of in-office versus hybrid work is a real balancing act. Furthermore, The Future of Work Trend Report found that 65% of respondents are currently working fully remote or hybrid.   

Is hybrid work here to stay?

The short answer is yes. Whether a business operates in a hybrid model or their clients do, it’s safe to say that most will require some flexibility with regards to workspace and protocols. Hybrid work isn’t just about the number of days in-office versus at home either; it’s about an organization’s ability to have the protocols in place to support hybrid work – through things like virtual meetings and workplace setups. It’s also about flexibility in working hours, with 70% of respondents to our survey stating the importance of flexibility with different work models.

What role is productivity playing in defining the future of work?

After becoming accustomed to working from home uninterrupted, 50% of employees are concerned about being distracted in the office and losing productivity, something employers are underestimating. People want to work smarter, not harder.

How is Staples addressing productivity amidst the future of work?

Home office set-ups have a large impact on productivity and many employees are making do without employer support. A key finding from the Report was that one quarter of hybrid and remote employees describe their workspace as simply adequate or poor, and are less likely to have basic elements such as a dedicated desk or proper lighting. Additionally, 55% of employees are missing an ergonomic chair or desk altogether. The ErgoCentric Collection at Staples is a solution designed to provide proper support for healthy workspaces.

From the findings of the Future of Work Trend Report, what are the most pressing issues concerning Canadian small businesses and their employees?

Respondents to the Angus Reid survey told us that only 35% of employers had communicated clear guidelines for remote and hybrid work beyond 2022. This number was a big wake-up call for us when thinking about how we serve the consumers and companies who rely on us.

How is Staples supporting Canadians in their home offices?

Our business priority at Staples is to provide hybrid work solutions which include ergonomics, wellness solutions, and adopting connectivity and mobile solutions. Ultimately, our aim is to provide them with the tools they need to succeed. Canadians can find a vast selection of home office equipment including tech, adjustable ergonomic chairs as well as dedicated desks so they can feel well supported and productive from wherever they are working.

Outside of the products, Staples has the expertise to support Canadians in hybrid work as well. We brought together a group of experts to be part of our Work from Anywhere Advisory Council, which helps provide us with valuable insights and practical solutions for the new world of work.

How do you suggest small and medium-sized businesses adopt flexibility into the office?

Leaders at all organizations, regardless of size, need to work with their employees to identify what they really need in terms of incentives and not deploy a ‘one-size-fits-all” solution. At Staples, our goal is to understand what our employees will require to return to an office setting that allows collaboration and connectivity with colleagues and teams. Flexibility, a dedicated workspace and providing double monitors, are just some of the solutions we support.

Can incentives really make a difference?

From our findings, the top three drivers bringing employees into the office include special perks, flexible in-office days and having a dedicated space free of distraction – posing an area of opportunity for many employers. While currently only about half of employers are offering incentives to encourage a return to the office, there is certainly a demand for it.

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