I was interviewed recently on CBC’s Radio-Canada (the segment was conducted in French), and the topic of discussion was focused on where Canada’s labour market is headed.
We talked about how many people have transitioned out of careers in specific sectors since the pandemic, and how “flexibility” is still the most important factor in attracting talent today. Employees are simply not interested in coming back to the office five days a week. They want to be able to work from home at least 2 to 3 times per week on average.
The four-day work week also came up in our conversation, and how such structures can give the workforce even more flexibility for better work-life balance.
These discussions got me thinking about how we are actually witnessing a much greater mindset shift across Canada’s workplaces today. Demands for flexibility, and work from home privileges, or even an attraction to a 4-day work week arrangement for example, are mere indicators of significant tectonic shifts that on the surface are invisible. Consider for example:
Moving from “Live to work” to “Work to live”: In many parts of the world, societal cultures place emphasis on living first and working second, however in North American cultures, a long-accepted norm placed work needs above personal or life needs by default. This hierarchy is quickly dissipating today. The pandemic, and our subsequent two-year long, Canada-wide work-from-home experiment showed employees that a greater emphasis on life was possible and felt better. So today, many workers are making career moves out of industries that don’t give them the life balance they seek, and are consciously seeking out other, more flexible options or simply “quiet quitting” their job. Consequently, business leaders and HR managers will need to consider how they “sell-in” their job opportunities to prospective employees. That shift towards living first and working second is a strong undercurrent in candidates’ decisions to accept job offers today.
We’re entering the “age of no compromise”: Five years ago, it would have been unheard of to have an employee leave a job and go to another company solely on the basis of getting one extra week of vacation. That is no longer the case today. Employees aren’t hesitating to jump ship if they can’t get the perks they want. And with today’s labour shortage across the country, jobseekers have the ability to easily find other jobs that will give them what they want. This means, executives and HR personnel must be much more careful in setting company policies, and being mindful when evaluating employee requests – these decisions are quickly turning into retention strategies, rather than the straightforward administrative decisions they once used to be.
A new focus on wellbeing at work: Self-care is no longer a term that applies exclusively to our personal lives. Employees today are expecting companies to take on greater responsibilities in caring for their employees’ wellbeing. And this is not just about having a great benefits package. Considerations today include expecting senior leadership to – guard against employees being over-worked and experiencing burn-out, not tolerate “bad bosses” and workplace bullying or toxicity, and promote workplace policies that cultivate mental wellness. For business leaders and HR managers, this means taking a much wider, more wholistic approach to fostering wellness at work – one that impacts employees both in their jobs and at home.
As Canada’s workplaces and policies catch up to the expectations of employees today, the good news is these shifts allow workers to be at their best mentally so they can bring their A-game to work from a mindshare standpoint. This can lead to greater camaraderie, smarter risk-taking and innovation from employees, all of which can deliver more sustained business growth.
All-in-all, we see these shifts as positive moves for businesses in the future.