Rethinking how we work


Provincial governments have entered the early phases of reopening communities, and many organizations are working on their own re-emergence strategies. With 82% of HR leaders involved in the decisions around the physical workspace¹, their teams are tasked with imagining what the next normal looks like for their workplaces.

One thing is for certain, we are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic working conditions anytime soon, if ever. Here are some starting points as you think about transitioning remote teams to new realities.

Employee experience

In the early months of 2020 about 2.1-million Canadians usually worked from home. By the last week of March, that number had exploded to 6.8-million or about 40% of the workforce². Many of the 4.7-million newly-minted remote workers had just days to figure out how to get up and running amidst the chaos of school closures, travel bans and frightening predictions.

While this early uncertainty may have settled, organizations need to understand the implications of remote work as a standard operating procedure, both through the lens of the organization and the employees themselves.

While many workers report a smooth transition, evidence is emerging that some are struggling with anxiety, depression, burnout and loneliness³. Although some employers offer virtual on-demand mental health support, such as Akira by TELUS Health, it’s important to understand the reality of your home-based workforce so you can take steps to make it a healthy and sustainable option for as many people as possible.

Consider doing some research using online surveys and virtual focus groups to find out what’s really going on. Areas to look at include:

  • Engagement
  • Productivity
  • Mental wellness
  • Physical wellness
  • Access to information and support, such as an HR contact centre


Focusing on these areas can help you understand the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead. At TELUS we used inputs such as these to drive a 32 percent increase in employee engagement⁴ when we redefined our workplace. We also noticed a big improvement in customer satisfaction.⁴ An experienced consultant can help you design an improved employee and customer experience.

Manager Experience

One group that is often overlooked when it comes to new ways of working are people managers. In addition to facing the same challenges as employees who work from home, these leaders are also having to learn new ways of managing. In fact, 15% of managers say they have never received formal training about working remotely⁵ and recent research shows that about 20 percent of leaders are unprepared for new remote reality.⁶

During times of uncertainty and change, leaders are key⁷ for maintaining your organization’s performance culture. They will need to draw on a broad skill set to manage productivity, engagement and new routines during what is likely to be a long-term change to how we will work.

Considerations for your next normal could include:

  • Leadership skill development such as coaching and mentoring
  • Career development
  • Performance management
  • Employee learning and development
  • Formal and informal team communications
  • Technical skills for using new tools to stay in touch and manage productivity
  • Virtual workplace experts who can support managers in this new way of working


HR executives also need to keep an eye on the usual strategic imperatives including succession planning, benefits costs, talent management and workforce planning. With new ways of working, it may be an opportunity to consider new tools or partners to support immediate and long-term shifts.

Start with basics

The employee and manager experiences will take a bit of time to understand and redefine, but an easy place to get started on next normal planning can be the basics of connectivity. While internet providers, including TELUS, support people working from home with high-speed connections and waived data limits, many remote teams have encountered other issues.

For example, some virtual private network (VPN) platforms are struggling to keep large numbers of employees connected⁸. In other cases, video and voice conferencing facilities have had difficulty scaling⁹. Security is also a concern, both in some conferencing tools¹⁰ and with a noted rise in phishing emails¹¹.

Working with an experienced consultant can help ensure your workforce is productively and securely connected.

It will be a long time, if ever, before we return to the way we worked just a few months ago, and HR executives have a short window in which to create the vision and the policies that will define their organization’s next normal. With an unprecedented number of people working from home, HR teams need to focus on how they will enable a productive, effective and engaged workforce.

The TELUS Employer Solutions team can help you design and manage your workforce. Our HR experts are ready with the services and technology you need to adapt to new ways of working. With 70 percent of the TELUS workforce able to work securely from home¹², we can also work with you to enable your virtual workplace.  

¹ Gartner Inc. 2020. The CHRO’s Role in Planning the Return to Workplace.
² Statistics Canada, April 17, 2020. Canadian Perspectives Survey Series 1: COVID-19 and working from home, 2020
³ Forbes, March 17, 2020. When Home Becomes the Workplace: Mental Health and Remote Work
⁴ TELUS, September 4, 2019. How TELUS redefined its own workplace.
⁵ OWLLabs, 2019. 45 Key Remote Work & Telecommuting Statistics for 2020.
⁶ VitalSmarts, 2020. How to Manage Newly Remote Teams
⁷ Harvard Business Review, April 3, 2020. Real Leaders Are Forged in Crisis.
⁸ BDO Canada march 25, 2020. Common IT Challenges and Recommended Workarounds Brought About by COVID-19
⁹ TechCrunch March 11, 2020. Slack calls are having ‘connectivity issues’.
¹⁰ The Ledger, April 7, 2020. Coronavirus: Hackers target video conference calls during COVID-19 pandemic.
¹¹ PC Magazine, March 30, 2020. Phishing Attacks Increase 350 Percent Amid COIVD-19 Quarantine.
¹² TELUS, 2020. Helping our customers to enable virtual work and virtual care.