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From the editor: A sneak peek into the future of work

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July 17, 2020
By Marcel Vander Wier

The cover of Talent Canada's summer issue.

If there is any ray of hope to be found within this mind-numbing COVID-19 pandemic, it may very well centre on the future of the Canadian workplace.

There’s no question the current global pandemic has dealt a crushing blow to society as we know it. Thousands have lost their lives. Millions have lost their jobs. And all of us — at least for a time — endured a loss of the social constructs and frameworks we previously had taken for granted.

Talent Canada‘s summer issue details the response of the federal government and workplaces across the country.

Personally, I have been most fascinated by the response of employers — and how quickly the world of work was able to adjust to futuristic employment policies such as extended work from home, virtual events and casual video check-ins between employees and managers.


New-look workplaces

Frankly, I’ve been impressed by the response, including from my own employer — Annex Business Media (publisher of Talent Canada and 65 other brands). Since mid-March, the vast majority of our staff have been working from home.

And while it hasn’t been all roses, we’ve managed to make the remote office work, including pivoting away from our live events lined up through the rest of 2020 towards a virtual model kicked off by this very publication.

Nearly 500 senior workplace leaders attended our Back to Work virtual summit on May 27, tackling the current challenge of safely returning to the office setting. If you missed it, you’re in luck — our cover story shares the best practices learned from experts across the country.

From a senior leadership perspective, it was inspiring to see the appetite for our content on a safe and healthy approach to physical workspaces, as well as appropriate policy regarding employee relationships and payroll.

And regardless of the fact that remote offices were the only available option from March through May, it must be noted that senior leaders across Canada pivoted to a more flexible, new-look vision on the world of work.

Economic recovery coming

As the Canadian economy continues its slow and steady pace towards recovery, it will be very interesting to see which companies continue to live by the new-world order of an employee-first, remote-work concept.

Spotify was one of the first to commit to a work-from-home policy for the rest of 2020. Tech giants like Facebook, Google and Microsoft soon followed. It remains unknown how many workplaces will continue the trend.

It’s always surprised me when senior leaders ignore best practice in the workplace. I totally understand it in some respects — I spent many years working for family run businesses and understand that every measure undertaken costs money.

But in more corporate settings, many employers have been so slow to adapt to ‘futuristic’ options such as work from anywhere or flexible work hours.

Towards the future

Prior to taking on my current role with Talent Canada, I spent three years writing about the workplace. Yet despite our hard work deciphering where the future workplace was headed, too often corporate leadership would continue with tried-and-true policy that had worked in the past.

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all of that, accelerating the momentum towards the future. From my vantage point, it’s well overdue.

The technology is in place to support work-from-anywhere and flexible hours, and the trend towards tech is only going to intensify in future generations.

(As an aside, watching my five-year-old son navigate his kindergarten classes conducted via Zoom through the COVID lockdown was truly remarkable.)

Furthermore, our environment can use the reprieve from the thousands of cars needlessly commuting to a physical office day in and day out. I’m sure you will agree with me — the commute time saved through this pandemic was a small blessing amidst a world in turmoil.

COVID-19 has given us a sneak peek of the future of work. It’s up to the senior leaders of today’s workplace to decide if the future is here to stay.

Marcel Vander Wier is the editor of Talent Canada.

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