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Is your staff returning to the office? Here's what you should know

“Employers of all sizes will soon be faced with developing policies around returning to work,” says labour lawyer Kevin Nanne.

Kevin Nanne, a labour lawyer and VP – Legal, and Tyler Rains, a safety professional and VP – Operations at Good Sense Workplace Solutions, provide advice to employers and employees on returning to the office, writing proper policy, and knowing when to ask for help. 

As COVID rates are going down across the country, life is starting to return to the ‘new’ normal.  Governments have begun to loosen their restrictions and are allowing more and more businesses to reopen every week. As a result, employers are now faced with serious questions about managing their employees who have been working from home for the past year and a half. 

Research conducted and published in the Harvard Business Review by Nicholas Bloom, Jose Maria Barrero and Steven J. Davis shows that post-pandemic, 32% of employees say they never want to return to working in the office. At the other extreme, 21% say they never want to spend another day working from home. 

Major corporations have been announcing their workplace strategies and they all look very different. For example, Facebook will allow up to 50% of their employees to work from home forever. Google, Microsoft, and HSBC will use a hybrid work from home/work from the office plan, while Dropbox will let all employees work from home permanently. 

“Employers of all sizes will soon be faced with developing policies around returning to work,” says Nanne. “One of the areas where we see employers struggle is not only writing a good policy but also implementing that policy in a consistent manner. Employers need to understand once they implement a policy, that is the standard they are held to. There is a common misconception that having a policy is good’s the application that is key,” Nanne adds. 

Rains states this was already a problem across many industries before the pandemic had started. “What you have is companies writing policy (or sometimes buying policies) that don’t accurately reflect how they conduct their business. This leaves the company in a dangerous situation where they think they are protected but are actually exposed to serious liability.”

This is where a company like Good Sense can help. Their procedure whenever they write policy is to conduct an initial assessment to determine the client's needs, properly understand their operations, and a final review to ensure the company can follow the new policy. This will be extremely important in determining how employees will return to work. 

“While writing good policy and following the policy is extremely important, employers need to understand and recognize situations where they may need to deviate from their policies,” cautions Nanne. “Specifically in the return to work context, employers may have duties under legislation such as the Human Rights Code and other privacy legislation that supersede their internal policies.”

“In a significant amount of the workplace harassment investigations we conduct, we see a situation where an employer or manager failed to recognize they had a legislative duty. We expect these situations to become more frequent as people are being asked to return to the office. Employers will need to be flexible and understand their legal duties.” adds Rains. 

Good Sense encourages employers to contact them at the first sign of trouble. Both Nanne and Rains agree that the sooner an employer gets expert help, the better the outcome. They say they would also prefer to help an employer be proactive but also have the resources and the expertise to respond to a crisis. 

“One of the cool things about Good Sense is the wide range of services we can provide. We employ health and safety, human resources, and legal professionals. Our first goal is always prevention and then mitigation. In the odd case where a file needs to be escalated to a legal level, our partner firm can seamlessly take over. We have an extremely unique model that provides excellent value and service to our clients,” says Rains. 

Good Sense Workplace Solutions is a group of professionals dedicated to providing affordable workplace solutions to companies looking to outsource select components of their health and safety or human resources management systems. Because of their experiences working on the tools, in the office and in the boardroom, they bring a practical approach to employee management relations that is grounded in reality and the law. Visit their website at or call at 705-255-6552 to speak with a professional about a free consultation.