There’s a lot going on in the world right now.
Across the globe, geopolitical tensions are more elevated than they’ve been in decades, while the day-to-day lives of average people closer to home continue to be upended by the overarching threats of high inflation and interest rates, as well as the unrelenting cost-of-living crisis.
The feature that accompanies the 2023 Top 40 Money Managers Report was written before the horrifying events in the Middle East, so it does feel like an important perspective is missing. However, it still outlines some significant global threats, from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to lingering hostilities between Canada and two Asian superpowers: China and India.
“Since the early ‘90s, [geopolitics] had fallen to the wayside considerably and, instead, almost purely economic or business considerations were the overwhelming, dominant decision drivers,” says Nick Chamie, chief strategist and senior managing director at the Investment Management Corp. of Ontario, in the feature. “But in recent years, particularly over the last two or three years, [geopolitics] has roared back.”
It may seem more superficial than these global upheavals, but employers back home are continuing to struggle with the evolving future of work as the battle to attract and retain employees continues to surge alongside inflation, interest rates and the cost of living.
In addition to Benefits Canada’s 2023 Future of Work Survey report, we look at two other areas of interest — one employer’s innovative hybrid working policy and lessons from a four-day workweek pilot project.
The Employer Strategy details Hootsuite Inc.’s ‘Perch Days’ program, which was introduced this summer to support employees’ in-person collaboration while maintaining flexibility. It includes formal and informal opportunities for staff to connect and socialize through lunch and learns, team meetings and ‘ask me anything’ sessions with the executive team.
“The human [interaction] side is what’s missing while working from home,” says Tara Ataya, the company’s chief people and diversity officer. “People love the flexibility of being able to work from home, but when they come in, they want to have social moments with co-workers.”
Meanwhile, the Lessons from Abroad shows a different approach to the future of work. The U.K.’s 2022 pilot project on a four-day workweek found 70 per cent of participating employees said they’d want a salary increase of between 10 per cent and 50 per cent to return to a five-day workweek, while 15 per cent said there was no amount of money that could convince them to return to a five-day workweek.
More importantly, 71 per cent of workers reported reduced levels of burnout by the end of the pilot program. And the vast majority (91 per cent) of U.K. organizations that participated in the pilot project said they’ll continue with a four-day workweek.
Indeed, alongside so many other interesting findings, Benefits Canada’s 2023 Future of Work Survey found some of employees’ most cited priorities around work-life balance were flexible or hybrid working arrangements (52 per cent), moving to a four-day workweek (51 per cent) and allowing autonomous working (49 per cent).
So Hootsuite’s new hybrid working program is right on track to accommodate employees’ evolving preferences for the future workplace. And it’s just one example — some of the survey’s advisory board members are also reaching outside the norm to bring employees unique programs that acknowledge these developments in the ways people want to work.
In 2022, Schneider Electric launched a paid-time-off purchase program called ‘Recharge Break.’ TMX Group Inc. offers a combination of in-office, remote and hybrid working styles, which sees employees come into the office two to three days a week. And Amazon Inc.’s ‘Dogs at Work’ program allows staff in Toronto and Vancouver to bring their dogs into the office, one of the ways it’s helping ease people back into the workplace.
These examples demonstrate that employers are thinking outside of the box to reignite employees’ passions for the workplace. In many ways, we simply aren’t going back to the workplaces that existed before the coronavirus pandemic, but that won’t stop employers from being innovative in the ways they engage staff and keep them connected.
Now more than ever, with everything going on in the world, it’s important for employers to embrace the evolving future of work because these aren’t just simple strategies for returning to the way work was; they’re intentional programs to support employees in all facets of their lives, in the wake of every hurdle dropped in their way.
Jennifer Paterson is the editor of Benefits Canada and the Canadian Investment Review.