Fuse Create is adopting a hybrid work policy and leaving the decision to continue working from home or return to the office entirely up to employees.

“We’ve been able to do good work virtually, so this concept of making employees return to the office five days a week doesn’t make sense, especially to our employees who know they’re doing their jobs and getting work done,” says Stephen Brown (pictured), Fuse’s chief executive officer.

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The Toronto-based marketing agency aims to strike the right balance with its flexible work policy, so it’s accommodating employees who have preferences for remote, hybrid and in-office work. The company is also compensating employees for their home internet usage for work and providing home office equipment as needed. But it also recognizes that, for some people, working from home amid the coronavirus pandemic has been a struggle.

About a year after the global pandemic was first declared, Fuse reopened its office doors in March 2021 — as soon as the provincial government allowed — to staff who needed to work in the office for mental-health reasons or to do focused work. And although the company has had to close the office at times, depending on government guidelines, if it was an emergency and staff needed to work onsite, a desk was bookable.

The agency was located in a spacious building with more than 14,000 square feet, so it was able to have employees safely onsite at a very limited capacity. To keep track of who was coming into the office and when, Fuse implemented a desk booking system, which allowed it to keep the office open most of the time and make it safer for employees. When coronavirus cases numbers spiked, the organization advised people to stay home unless absolutely necessary.

This month, Fuse purchased a new building in the west end of Toronto, which it plans to move into in January 2022. The office is smaller, but with the new flexible working policy, its collaborative spaces are exactly what the agency needs, as it’ll be primarily used for team-based or client meetings, says Brown.

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While he believes Fuse needs a hub where people can come together and ideate, where culture can grow and be shaped and where social interactions can take place organically, he doesn’t think the agency needs to institute a firm policy right now.

Trust management is key to a successful hybrid work arrangement and it’s essential to a healthy workplace culture, says Brown. “We feel we can trust the team to make the right decisions based on what they need for themselves and their clients and that is through this hybrid model.”

While many of Fuse’s employees are excited about the new office space, others are happy that they’ll continue to have the ability to work from home. “During the creative development phase, you want to be in a boardroom to bat around ideas, but you also need time to go back to your quiet space and refine what you’re working on,” says Brown. “Often, that process happened on our commutes or runs off hours.”

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Remote working has allowed Fuse’s employees to tap into that reflective time during their work hours, he adds. Indeed, one of his writers told him she believes working from home has elevated her work product, along with her creative skills.

The shift to flexible working has also enabled the company to remain competitive when it comes to recruiting new workers. Brown says flexible working is a key question during interviews with prospective talent. Potential candidates’ preferences are also split — so much so that if Fuse decided to go completely in one direction, he believes it would be a detriment to the company’s ability to attract the best employees.

Still, he notes the organization’s policy is fluid, much like the situation on the ground. “We know that the future of work is evolving and that comes with pivoting and adapting as we go. However, the Fuse team has always been really good at that, so I have faith we will manage perfectly fine.”

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