Today’s modern world is constantly shifting, piling more and more layers on for people attempting to juggle, and balance, the responsibilities of work and life.
Since taking the reins as editor of this magazine 10 months ago, I’ve certainly felt the pressure. While finding a new managing editor to replace my former role and learning the rhythms of my new one, I also had to decide what kind of leader I wanted to be. Luckily, I was basically building the editorial team from scratch, so I had four colleagues to contribute to that discussion.
As I built up my team, I quickly discovered we’re all very different — in the way we work, our preferred daily schedules and our responsibilities outside the office. So I knew we weren’t going to be a nine-to-five team.
The Benefits Canada editorial team is hardly unique. Alongside the evolving modern workplace, multiple generations are working together, and more people are balancing both childcare and elder-care responsibilities.
Statistics Canada’s labour force survey found 15,000 Canadian employees either left their jobs or moved to part-time work in 2012 to care for older relatives. This is up dramatically from 3,300 in 1997. Fortunately, employers are paying attention.
A 2018 Conference Board of Canada survey found 85 per cent of Canadian organizations offer flexible working options to their employees. These include flexible hours (93 per cent), part-time remote work (55 per cent), occasional remote days (52 per cent), compressed workweeks (45 per cent) and working remotely on a full-time basis (45 per cent).
Other surveys have highlighted the positive effects flexible working has on employee health and well-being, as well as interpersonal relationships. But studies have also pointed out the downsides. According to a 2018 survey by Robert Half Canada Inc., these include isolation, missing out on team environments, abuse of the benefit, suffering weakened interpersonal work relationships and, without people to bounce ideas off of, a negative effect on creativity.
Of course, flexible working is also more challenging in some sectors. Retail workers, chefs, teachers and many others, for instance, can’t do their jobs from home.
But where it is possible, I think the benefits far outweigh the downsides. As a manager, I certainly want to ensure my team optimizes their wellness during their working days. If that means they’re curled up on the couch in their pyjamas on Tuesdays, that’s OK with me.
I’ve been a long-time supporter of flexible working. For me, working from home means fewer distractions, so I can put my head down and focus on deadline-driven tasks. If I need to fit an appointment or social commitment into my workweek, it’s great to be able to clock a few longer days to compensate for that.
Returning to my goal of determining what kind of leader I want to be, my position on flexible working hasn’t changed since I became the boss. If I have to work remotely or adjust my hours, I want everyone on my team to know the same applies to them. It comes down to trust. They know what they need to get done and how long it will take, so how and where they do it should be up to them.
It may be challenging in some work environments, but opportunities still exist to informally allow staff to flex their work so it suits their lives. And if employees are happy, their employer is happy. It can be a win-win for everyone.
Jennifer Paterson is the editor of Benefits Canada.