Moving Forward at Work: Defining your Return to Work Policy

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With the pandemic looking like it is finally under control, most workplaces are actively building plans for return to the office in the Fall.  And while flexible work arrangements are being considered by almost all organizations, there are many firms that are veterans of the integrated virtual office.  

In June the CMA invited Lorne Rubis who played an integral part in introducing ATB’s Work from Anywhere Program (way back in 2013) to talk to our CMO and Agency Forums on ways to define their new workplace models.

ATB’s Work From Anywhere Policy started as an executive conversation about the nature of work: what is work? Where is work? And how should we think about work?  A pilot group put it to the test and modeled how remote work could function in a ROWE model (results only work environment).  What the leadership at ATB realized is that acceptance or resistance came down to trust –that is, do we trust employees to do the work or not?  Once leaders embraced a trust and growth mindset, the remote work model took off.  They stopped managing people’s time and started managing people’s development.

Fast forward to the COVID Pandemic.  Sixteen plus months of fully remote work have changed the way we think about work from home. Leaders have been forced to trust their employees and they have seen work from home in action and can assess the success and understand the obstacles.  But integrating how companies are going to move forward – work from home, return to the office or a hybrid model – takes careful consideration and implementation for both employers and employees. It is important to remember not to try and duplicate the office remotely or to think about the office as it was.  Here are a few things that need to be considered:


How do we define the employee-employer relationship? 
  • Did we really trust employees when they worked in the office? 
  • Is being present the only KPI? How do we define ‘present’?
  • Some employees have always been able to hide and punch the clock. Does that really change with remote work?


How to use the office productively? 
  • What is the best way to use core office hours? 
  • What is the best way to create collaboration and use meetings when people are at the office?  At home?
  • Do cube farms inspire or deter that desire?


What are the real ingredients of innovation? 
  • How do we facilitate?


What are the new ‘signals’ of productivity, engagement and value?
  • Does being the first in and last out really matter anymore? 
  • Can an employee at any level get a haircut in the middle of the day? 
  • Do we really need to manage vacation and/or sick time?


Here are Lorne Rubis’ principles of moving forward:



So, why does some form of remote work fit most employees needs?  Well, across all age brackets and seniority levels, employees want more flexibility and autonomy.  Employees now view time related to commutes and in-person meeting culture as a waste.  The pandemic turned traditional ideas of work upside-down; work is no longer about time and place. Productivity and profits are becoming employee driven and flexible work arrangements are becoming a benefit included in competitive compensation packages.  If you want top talent, employers must reconsider how people work best.  Employees are actively reconsidering what they are looking for in an employer and now more than ever, employees are willing to quit if remote working is not available. 

How is your company defining workspace going forward and what are your major concerns with this shift?


In 2020, Lorne was included on the HRD Global 100 List. He was awarded the 2018 Canadian LifeTime Achievement Award for contributions to the Human Resource community and advancing the workplace. It is awarded annually by the Ivey Academy, The Ivey School of Business, and HRD Magazine. Lorne teaches EMBA courses at the University of Alberta on Culture and Strategic HR. He began teaching his Culture course at Harvard in December 2019. He is a member of the Institute of Corporate Directors, a Director on the Board of FortisAlberta Inc., a member of Covenant Health’s Innovation Committee and a mentor at The Unreasonable Group.

Lorne joined ATB Financial, as Chief People Officer in 2012, with the mandate to make ATB “The Place to Work.” During his 4 plus years in that role, working closely with the enterprise leadership team, ATB became widely recognized as one of the top companies to work for in North America. Lorne then became ATB’s first Chief Evangelist in 2017. In this role Lorne led the company-wide transition to Google’s G Suite, moving the entire company onto a transformative collaboration and communication platform that resulted in a renaissance of how people work. Lorne retired from ATB in August 2018.


About the Author

Sherida German is the VP of Marketing and Communications for Edelman where she leads marketing and communication strategies for B2C and B2B clients for Western Canada. She is a senior counsel on global, national and local accounts across a number of sectors including energy, retail, and technology. She is also a proud Board Member of the Calgary Marketing Association.

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