The Royal Bank of Canada is applying the lessons it learned during the coronavirus pandemic to develop a hybrid work model for a wide range of employees and departments.

“When we were all forced to work remotely in the spring of 2020, we realized we can do this and still get our work done,” says Lauren Friese, vice-president of future of work and culture. “For a lot of employees, the experience was a real eye-opener and they saw a way of working that was potentially better for them. We saw an opportunity to take the best of working together remotely and couple it with the best we had before in order to design a future of work that’s better for everyone.”

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Acknowledging that a one-size-fits-all hybrid policy wouldn’t be possible across the entire company, she says the bank opted to implement a series of guiding principles that allow for a flexible approach optimized for the employer, its employees and clients alike. This includes “three different flavours of hybrid — one where the default is to go to an office and work from home some of the time, another which is more structured with set days onsite and the third is primarily remote, where [employees] might come in for a special meeting,” says Friese.

“Many employees who work on premises have continued to do so during the pandemic and then we have roles that can be done 100 per cent virtually, while the majority are in the middle, where there’s an opportunity to mix those things together.”

While RBC is encouraging employees to live within a commutable distance of their primary office or branch, it’s also emphasizing career advancement isn’t tied to time spent in the workplace, says Friese. “We’ve committed to employees to have an inclusive culture with growth opportunities regardless of their work arrangement. If you work from home half a week, you won’t miss out on career opportunities. We’re moving away from this idea that in order to advance in your career, you have to be seen.”

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Support for managers and employees is another key component of the plan. In addition to a leadership guide for managers in a hybrid environment, the bank also launched an internal information portal for all employees, covering everything from accessing office spaces and booking desks to leading a hybrid meeting, says Friese.

And while the model’s official launch remains fluid due to the appearance of new coronavirus variants, she says hybrid work is here to stay post-pandemic. “This is real. This is where we’re going and we’re committed to working towards it. We’ll pivot and adjust as we go, but this is the direction in which we’re heading.”

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