HR and Faculty

SFU Hybrid Work Program offers flexibility and collaboration

July 18, 2023

When Tanya Behrisch reflects on hybrid work at SFU, two words come up frequently: trust and dignity.

"The option to participate in hybrid work gives the clear message that SFU trusts its people. It just provides us a lot more dignity in our daily lives and allows us to take care of ourselves while being professionals."

Tanya Behrisch has held a number of leadership roles at SFU throughout the years and is currently Manager of the Faculty of Applied Sciences Co-op Program.

As Manager for the Faculty of Applied Sciences Co-op Program, Behrisch leads a team of 14 staff who facilitate more than 2,000 student placements each year. She trusts in her team, and hybrid work allows them to provide services in a more accessible manner by giving students the option of both in-person and online advising sessions, workshops and mock interviews.

“Since we’ve been back on campus working together, I see a more generous and supportive dynamic between staff. People are checking in on each other's well-being and there’s more sensitivity to each other’s limits while maintaining excellent standards and a high volume of work.”

SFU’s Hybrid Work Program formally launched in April 2023 and is designed to enable and support in-person interaction and collaboration for staff while also offering flexibility. Planning for hybrid work arrangements first began in 2021, and efforts continued throughout 2022 to develop a principle-based approach that accounted for the diverse needs of the SFU community. 

Guided by the values outlined in What’s Next and the institutional priority of transforming the SFU experience, the Hybrid Work Program is one of many ways the university aims to integrate progressive people practices that center equity and belonging, encourage healthy working practices and ensure a thriving SFU. 

Esther Dignos is a Program Assistant with the Faculty of Education and has worked at SFU since 2011.

Beyond the world of Applied Sciences, strong communication and trust has been essential for other teams as well during the implementation of hybrid work. In the Faculty of Education, Program Assistant Esther Dignos focuses on the key administrative activities required to deliver scholarships and awards, scheduled courses and publish grades for graduate students each term. She credits the success of hybrid work within her team to the strong support of their manager.

“I’m positive that hybrid works well for us because our manager really included us in the planning, scheduling and consultation process. She asked us what we needed at home in order to thrive in our roles, and I’m thankful for the work-life balance that this has provided for me and the rest of the staff in our faculty.”

SFU is not alone among Canadian post-secondary institutions in establishing hybrid work initiatives. In a 2023 survey, 91% of respondents had implemented or were pursuing implementation of permanent hybrid or flexible arrangements for staff with the objective of enhancing employee well-being, recruitment and retention. Those efforts are backed by research – a recent study conducted by Simon Fraser University and Toronto Metropolitan University researchers found that hybrid work was better than fully remote or in-person formats for the mental health of Canadian workers.  

While Behrisch and Dignos may work in separate faculties and hold different positions at SFU, those findings ring true for both of them.  

“To me hybrid work is a beautiful thing for working people, for women, for parents, for human beings.  I’m very proud to work at an institution that has embraced it and I think it’s a big factor in making SFU a good place to work,” Behrisch concluded.