One size doesn’t fit all: why office time needs to be maximized accordingly

In an illustration, a woman on the left is in business clothes working at an office desktop. On the right, she is in a hoodie working from a laptop in a home office.

Companies that don’t employ, at the very least, a hybrid work option, can expect an increase in employee turnover.  “And what that means is losing talented employees to other organizations,” said hybrid work expert Hassan Osman at the Insurance Brokers Association of Ontario (IBAO) Convention in Toronto. 

“During the pandemic, a lot of people have got a sense [of] what remote work feels like and they basically said…‘if my current employer isn’t offering some sort of hybrid arrangement, then I’ll happily move over to this other organization that will,’ even if it’s a lateral move and you don’t get any increase in compensation, or any increase in roles or responsibilities.” 

Amid an industry talent crunch, the last thing broker principals want is employee turnover, especially if it means that their talent is going to work for their competitors. But principals must consider how best to accommodate employees’ hybrid needs before making office impositions in vain. 

There is a spectrum of where work gets done, Osman explains. On one side is synchronous work where “you need to interact live with your team members and collaborate in real time to get work done.” On the other side is asynchronous work where “you don’t have to do [work] live with them and you don’t have to be on the same call,” he said.  

Synchronous workers require set office hours, whereas asynchronous workers can work anytime.  

In a brokerage for example, a broker working on customer policies may need to work on-site from 9-5 to meet prospects. Another who works in IT may not need to be present in-office but may need to work 9-5 to provide support during work hours. A third employee working in graphic design may have deadline-based projects that allows them to work asynchronously and remotely. 

“If you think about it, hybrid work doesn’t really affect the type of work that’s getting done. It only affects where and when work gets done,” Osman said. 

“There’s not one model [of work] for everyone. So the question in everyone’s minds is, how do I balance the needs of my business with keeping my employees happy?” he said. “You can really start to quantify where different individuals on your team, or different teams within your organization, fit on this [spectrum].” 

Those who are coming into the office need to ensure their time is being used effectively. 

“That goal is to maximize the benefits of having the team members together in an office. You want to make it count with your employees,” said Osman. “One conversation I had a while back was with someone who [commented] about the fact that they have to wake up early, they have to dress up, fix their hair, drive an hour and 15 minutes to the office, and then spend all day on Zoom, only to go driving back from the office for an hour and a half stuck in traffic.” 

This is where batching your meetings comes into play, Osman said. “This is an idea about basically pulling together all your different meetings in either the same day or the same parts of the day. 

“For example, if you’re going to be on site, it makes sense to have all your staff calls, your recurring meetings, your team building activities, on the same day when you show up at the office.”  

Brokerages may also consider having everyone on site for a few weeks while launching a special project, and then having people work remotely outside of that.  

The key is to balance in-office socialization with remote productivity. 

“In the office, you want to think about how to maximize that time spent with other colleagues,” he said, “and then remotely, you want to have that focus on uninterrupted time and basically have that heads-down focus time, trying to avoid as many meetings as possible. 

“As a matter of fact, some policies on remote work try to have no meeting Fridays unless it’s absolutely necessary. Then with office work, they basically have some rules about no lunch alone arrangements.” 


Feature image by