Why is the demand for flexible working on the rise in Canada?
For decades this model of working has been the norm, with a belief in business that set hours and fixed locations guaranteed productivity and profitability. This was also at a time when manufacturing and factory work was dominant, when women weren’t in the workplace, and technology was limited… to non-existent.
But, as Bob Dylan sang… the times they are a-changin’.
For today’s workforce, the strict demands of the 9-to-5 no longer appeal; with more and more people finding value in flexible working hours, remote work, custom working arrangements and compressed work weeks.
In fact: “A recent survey by The Conference Board of Canada found that almost nine out of 10 (86 per cent) Canadian organisations are now offering at least one type of flexible work option, and employers stand to benefit through a more engaged workforce and increased employee retention.” - [source]
The following addresses five of the primary drivers for this rise in flexible work conditions. Continue reading below, or for more articles like this Follow us on LinkedIn!
Population | Engagement | Obstacles | Technology | Work-Life
Population: The workforce has changed
The workforce in Canada is ageing. By 2021, nearly one in four Canadian workers are likely to be 55 years or over [source], with Millennials and the new generation ‘Z’ leading the charge on flexible working; particularly in technological fields.
Millennials born after the 1980s, witnessed the rise of now common-place communicative technologies and as such, have high expectations for flexibility across all environments including the workplace. This is becoming ever more the case as Gen-Z (people born in the mid-’90s who grew up online from an early age) become more established in the business world.
“A generation that is completely aware of how impossible it is to switch off technology and make oneself unavailable for even a few hours, is clamouring to at least be able to enjoy the reverse of this phenomenon and to carry out their work tasks freely from any location they choose.” - [source]
On top of this generational shift driven by higher social awareness and more liberally political and economic thinking, the workforce is also being affected by an increase in employee responsibilities and obligations. Eldercare with an ageing population, childcare demands as women are equally seen in the workplace, and expectations from those older workers delaying retirement - are all impacting the need for flexibility.
Engagement: Increased employee engagement and productivity
“Employee engagement is a workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give of their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.” - [source]
When flexibility first become a ‘hot topic’ many businesses feared the impact this freedom would have on employee productivity, with management typically resistant to this change. However, research indicates that around a third of Canadian organisations now believe productivity is positively impacted by flexible work arrangements. [Source]
Much of this relates back to people feeling more respected and trusted by employers, along with more awareness around completing work required - regardless of time-of-day or physical location. The removal of distractions such-as office noise, daily commutes and water cooler chats has also contributed to improved employee productivity, allowing higher capacity to fully engage with work activities.
Obstacles: A reduction of, but some remain
Historically the main obstacles to flexible working have been related to the availability of technology, fears surrounding productivity, leadership resistance and the suitability of jobs.
As discussed above, more Canadian companies implementing flexible structures results in more insights surrounding workforce productivity, helping to overcome that obstacle. However, this is more than a tick box exercise. Flexible work requires a complete mindset change across an organisation, including at the leadership level, to be truly effective;
“It’s really about culture, and I think that’s what makes a difference. If you give everybody Friday afternoons off, but none of the leadership team leaves before 5 p.m. on Friday, the message you send to your organisation is that you don’t believe in it [flexible Fridays]. So, for me, it’s all about a mindset, and it’s all about a culture.” — Laura Larbalestier, vice-president at Pfizer Canada [source]
There will always be some jobs that cannot be entirely flexible (a surgeon would struggle to work remotely for example), but changes in the way we communicate digitally and advances in video conferencing have opened the doors to new jobs and industries going remote.
Technology: It’s rapid development and capabilities
Without the technological advancements we’ve seen in recent years, much of what we now classify as flexible work would be impossible. Technology truly is the key driver of this movement, and the tool which is allowing it to expand across North America.
Whether it’s advancements in email communication or developments surrounding Cloud-based services (SaaS) - platforms like Slack for group collaboration, Asana for task management, Dropbox for shared media, Join.Me for video conferencing or Harvest and iDoneThis for daily check-in’s and time management, have made flexible work from any location possible!
Advances in 4G connectivity (with 5G coming soon), easier access to free wifi and ever-increasing download speeds (Telus are now averaging 70.4Mbps in Toronto) are also helping to make the capacity for remote work more viable.
Work-Life: Improved health & wellness alongside responsibilities
Ultimately this is the main reason that many people pursue work opportunities that offer flexibility. Companies that give employees the ability to tackle responsibilities and demands in their personal lives, typically find they are rewarded with a dedicated, satisfied workforce that is more committed to the organisation.
For today’s workers, it’s not just salary that makes a difference. Having the capacity to spend more time with loved ones, time to take care of personal fitness goals and mental wellbeing, not spending hours weekly commuting. These are the rewards and benefits that people are seeking, and are changing jobs to access.
“We have established working committees for each of the four health pillars: mental, physical, work and life. We are looking at improving the health of our employees in each of these through existing programs or implementing new programs to assist [workers]” - Nicole Poirier, director of health, safety, environment and emergency preparedness for NB Power [source]
In many ways, this has been the main contributing factor for the growing ‘gig economy’ being embraced by employers and employees alike, across North America. Non-traditional workers including independent contractors, on-demand workers, remote workers and similar accounted for 20-30 percent of the workforce in a 2017 report [source] - a stat that is only likely to have increased since.
Caspian One operates within Canada’s technology markets. In Toronto we work closely with leading financial institutions, whereas in Montreal’s blossoming tech community we are utilising our capabilities to support a wide-range of clients - from AI and Cyber Analytics, to Digital Signage, Security and much more.
We’re witnessing a constant rise in the demand for flexible work arrangements from candidates, with many pursing ‘perks’ designed around their personal situations above purely financial gains. Employees and companies are recognising the importance of taking a 360° approach to employee benefits, rewards and work arrangements, and we only see this trend continuing.
If you would like more information on the demand for flexible work arrangements in North America or would like to explore our latest vacancies, contact our team at firstname.lastname@example.org, +1 (416) 900 1284
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