For public relations executive Terance Brouse, the office is where creativity flows.

On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, employees at Maverick PR work from the firm’s office, a converted red brick Victorian home in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. “We come to the office on the same days because we need a quorum,” says Brouse, the firm’s vice-president of client services. “That’s when the brainstorming and those ‘aha’ moments happen.”

Many companies are transitioning to hybrid work schedules from the remote working policies that were developed by necessity in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet, how to strike a balance between office life and remote work remains an enduring challenge for many businesses nearly three years after lockdowns upended how many Canadians work — one that’s made more difficult by the differing expectations between employers and employees.

Read: 51% of U.S. hybrid, remote workers would quit their jobs if mandated to return to office: survey

A new survey by Cisco Systems Canada Co. suggests while employees increasingly expect flexibility, employers continue to see hybrid work arrangements as a perk.

The survey, which polled 1,000 workers and more than 500 employers, found 81 per cent of Canadian employees want a flexible work arrangement and are willing to leave their current job to get it. But the survey found a majority of employers were tightening hybrid work policies and ushering in mandatory office days.

“At the highest level, there’s satisfaction overall with hybrid work among both employees and employers,” says Shannon Leininger, president of Cisco Canada. “But when we dig into the numbers, there’s a tension between the expectations of employees and employers. Employers feel like hybrid work is a benefit. Employees feel like it’s expected.”

Workers seem to be resisting the transition back to offices for two main reasons: time and money. Canadians who work from home save an average of 65 minutes a day normally spent commuting, according to research published last month by the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research.

Read: Study finds remote working giving employees back 72 minutes per day

For employees in bigger cities, remote working can sometimes shave as much as three hours off a workday — time that experts say can instead be spent on health and wellness, time with family and other activities that support a strong work-life balance.

“We know now what it’s like to be able to work a full workday and still be able to drop off kids at school and do a load of laundry,” says Andrea Bartlett, vice-president of people at Humi. “Once people have experienced that flexibility, it’s hard to take it away.”

The Cisco survey also found 59 per cent of women said flexibility and choice in how, when and where they work was a priority, compared with 51 per cent of men.

“What I repeatedly hear from women is this feeling that I no longer have to choose between my family and my career,” says Maria Pallas, director of strategy and optimization for My Lauft Inc., a network of on-demand workspaces. “I can do both. I can do well at my job and handle my responsibilities and serve my clients but . . . I can be home with my family for dinner. I can pick up my kid from soccer practice.”

Meanwhile, employees report saving thousands of dollars a year working from home, saving money on everything from coffee and lunches to parking and transit. Research by Cisco released last year found employees saved $11,100 annually on average working in a hybrid model.

Read: Willful making remote working permanent, allowing staff to work from anywhere

To address the rising cost of living, some companies have considered offering workers a commuting stipend as part of a return-to-office mandate. While a company may have the legal right to determine where an employee works, the shortage of workers has empowered them to have a greater say over their work arrangements.

“We have a tight labour force market,” says Leininger. “There’s a heightened demand for skills [and] organizations that offer a hybrid model with more flexibility and choice will reap the greatest benefits.”

While one of the downfalls of mandating office days could be losing workers, experts say there are also risks to not having face time with colleagues. “From an employer’s perspective, there could be concerns about a loss of learning through osmosis if everyone is at home,” says Bartlett. “They might also be concerned that employees are less connected to what the business is trying to do.”

Experts say finding the right hybrid work schedule ultimately comes down to what works best for both an organization and individual workers. “There will be some trial and error,” says Pallas. “We’re figuring things out as we go. We’re still in the dust-settling phase of a very abrupt and rapid change.”

Read: Vista using clear objectives, communication to maintain productivity in remote work environment