Benchmark Report 2023: Firm Expectations—Managing Remote Work and Flexibility

The hyper adoption of remote work remains one of the most significant impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns. Often expressed as days-per-week employees are expected to be in the office, policies for remote work are prominent in discussions ranging from project management and firm productivity, to staff learning and recruitment. 

The 2023 Canadian Architectural Practices Benchmark Report reveals how remote work has been adopted by firms and experiences of remote work in relation to productivity. 

84 per cent of firms accommodate remote work, with most firms expecting their staff to be in the office a majority of the week. Firms with fewer employees tend to have higher days-in-office expectations than do larger firms. Most firms perceive that productivity has not changed or has somewhat decreased. Almost half of responding employees, however, perceive that remote work has increased their productivity. Differences in these perspectives may be attributable to employers looking at productivity across the business with organizational-level data and employees defining productivity based on their individual work or teams.

Staff retention and recruitment are key considerations for remote work policies and approaches. 46 per cent of firms expect to take on additional employees in the coming year while 48 per cent expect to remain at current staffing levels. If these expectations come to fruition, recruitment and retention will be top of mind for employers and people-leaders.

Looking at prospective candidates, more than half of employees of these firms are expected to be in the office three days per week or less. Firms that expect employees in the office more than that may lose out on talent accustomed to, or appreciative of, their current work arrangements. Likewise, employees that dismiss employment opportunities based on days-in-office policies may be losing out on meaningful career and learning opportunities. Employees, of course, consider a great deal of factors other than days-in-office when deciding on employment.

Days-per-week policies are not the only enabler of flexibility or remote work. Indeed, unless appropriately managed, remote work may work in opposition to flexibility. Flexibility is an honourable and useful attribute, but it needs to be manageable, managed, and supported by leadership, project resources, and other business capabilities. 

Decisions on remote work are not as simple as a days-per-week policy, especially given the collaborative nature of the profession. Cybersecurity, technology, project flow, and fairness are just some of the considerations that condition the hyper adoption of remote work. As with any change, getting this right will take time, communication and iteration.

Although some discourse encourages an employee-versus-employer mentality, more productive dialogue is directed toward alignment. This comes from how organizations are managed, how people are led, and how individuals work in relation to each other, no matter whether they are across the studio, across the country, or across
national borders.

With homage to Peter Drucker’s “what gets measured gets managed,” defining objectives and expressing them meaningfully for each person in the organization can align people in how they work and what they work toward. Remote work is perhaps less about where people are working—and more about how they are working and how they are
appropriately supported, both independently and together.


Russell Pollard (he/him), MBA, is the founder and principal of business consultancy Framework Leadership.


See all articles in the November issue 

Read additional articles in Canadian Architect’s series on the Canadian Architectural Practices Benchmark Report (2023 Edition):

·        Benchmark Report 2023: The State of Canadian Architectural Practice

·        Benchmark 2023: How’s your firm’s financial health?

·        Benchmark Report 2023: Mixed Prospects

·        Benchmark Report 2023: Architecture and Capital “M” Marketing

·        Benchmark Report 2023: Women in Canadian Architecture—An Update

·        Benchmark Report 2023: Competitive Compensation

·        Benchmark Report 2023: Looking Ahead—Succession Planning and Firm Value

·        Benchmark 2023: Future Forward—Adaptive Change in Architecture Education and Practice