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The Government of Canada is moving to make flexible work a right protected in the Canada Labour Code. [Photo © Drew May]

The Government of Canada is planning to give all full-time Canadian workers in federally regulated sectors the right to flexible work.

According to a recent survey conducted by Employment and Social Development Canada, many Canadians want flexible hours, schedules and the ability to work from home in order to improve work-life balance.

The survey, conducted between May and June 2016, asked Canadians if they were satisfied with their work-life balance and, if not, how it could be improved. The results, published this September, revealed that Canadians feel they are struggling to maintain that balance.

“It’s time we gave Canadians the flexibility they need to balance their busy lives at home and at work. Our plan will do just that.”

— MaryAnn Mihychuk, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

The survey found that many Canadians worry about negative repercussions from employers if they request flexibility, even on a temporary basis. The government plans to amend the Canada Labour Code in the upcoming months to legitimize employee requests and to match the already shifting work culture in Canada. A date for the changes has not yet been decided.


 

© Olivia Bowden


Canada’s changing work culture

A 2016 survey found that Canadians said flexible schedules and the option to work remotely would improve productivity, work-life balance and job satisfaction.

A 2016 survey found Canadians said flexible schedules and the option to work remotely would improve productivity, work-life balance and job satisfaction. [Photo © Drew May]

“The work environment in Canada, like workplaces globally, is changing rapidly,” said Marc-Étienne Julien, CEO of Randstad Canada, a shared and temporary office space provider. “Employers looking to remain attractive in the eyes of today’s workforce need to evolve, align with changing attitudes and offer flexible workplace solutions that work for the business and its employees.”

According to Randstad Canada’s studies, the millennial generation, the largest generation in the workforce, is less mindful of “boundaries between workspace and personal space,” with more than half willing to take work home.

“When employees feel like they can fit their work schedules into their life, rather than scheduling their life around their work schedule, they tend to be more engaged, happy and willing to contribute,” said Julien.

Working from home has a demonstrative affect on employee well-being and quality of work.

Working from home has a demonstrative affect on employee well-being and quality of work. © Christian Mittelstaedt

Regus Canada also researched Canadians’ opinions about work schedules.

“In one of our studies, 68 per cent of people would not consider a job if there was no flexible employment,” said Regus vice-president Wayne Berger. “If companies want to attract top talent they need to (meet) the demand.”

Regus asked which work model would be the most productive for employees. Fifty-four per cent of respondents said working regular hours are not suited for job efficiency because people are more productive at different times of the day.

“People need to be out doing their job wherever they are most needed and not be chained to a desk. “

— Wayne Berger, Vice-President, Regus Canada
93 per cent of millennials would be attracted to working for the government if they could work anytime from anywhere, according to a government survey.

Ninety-three per cent of millennials would be attracted to working for the government if they could work anytime and anywhere, according to a government survey. [Photo © Drew May]

“Flexibility is becoming a key demand, especially as younger ‘millennial’ workers enter the workforce,” said Berger. “We’re moving towards a results-based work culture, which has less interest in how and where work is accomplished so long as it is being completed.”

Over the last 20 years, working for various companies, Berger observed the people who were out of the office, building relationships with clients and telecommuting, were the most successful and productive.

The nine to five workday was the main complaint from Regus Canada’s respondents. They said commuting to the office in traffic and lengthy meetings decreased their productivity. “Commuting and going to an office every day within a specified time to complete your job within a certain time is a mature, out-dated concept.”

“If you look at generation before, it was a requirement to be at your office to be seen early and stay late,” said Berger. “We didn’t have the technology to do your job without physically being there.”

Working from home or bringing work home might cause more stress because the line between the two is blurred and people can’t leave work stress at the office.— The Canadian Mental Health Association

But now employees have the capability to work remotely.

“This is the digital era and millennials are more comfortable with (technology),” said Berger. “Millennial workers grew up with the access and power of the Internet and handheld technology and the explosion of apps to help people conduct their job effectively.”

Although Employment and Social Development Canada’s consultation results found employees with greater work flexibility were more satisfied with their work-life balance, it often means working longer hours.

Health risks working from home

But meshing work with home-life may increase stress, according to a report by The Canadian Mental Health Association.

Bringing work home blurs the line between work and home, which causes stress, according to The Canadian Mental Health Association.

Bringing work home blurs the line between work and home, which causes stress, according to The Canadian Mental Health Association. [Photo © Drew May]

It found that working from home or bringing work home might cause more stress because the line between the two is blurred and people can’t leave work stress at the office. The organization reported a “buffer” is needed between the two for mental well-being so people can separate work from their personal lives.

The report found that “58 per cent of Canadians report overload associated with their many roles.” It also found that while “employees who considered most of their days to be quite a bit or extremely stressful were over three times more likely to suffer a major depressive episode.”

To help avoid such stress, the government is also studying ways to help its workforce manage overload with their personal lives and employment to achieve a better balance while meeting Canadians’ demand for flexible work.

© Olivia Bowden

The above map indicates the percentage of workers who work from home in Ontario in each city. Scroll over each dot to learn about average commute time, and the percentage of residents who commute to work. All statistics are from the 2011 National Household Survey by Statistics Canada. 


Lucy Juneau is a Carleton University Journalism major, minoring in Canadian Studies with a focus in Indigenous Affairs. She is the youngest of nine kids, a proud aunt and a dog lover.

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