Canadian Workplaces Unprepared For Post-COVID Return

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(CNW Group/AGE-WELL Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE))

60 per cent of working Canadians bracing for more change

As Canadians navigate COVID-19’s third wave, Randstad Canada – a leader in the HR services industry – surveyed working Canadians to understand their experiences working through the pandemic and their expectations for the post-pandemic workplace.1 The majority (60 per cent) expect more changes, in addition to greater support from managers, and flexibility with respect to where and when they work. At the same time, organizations are failing to place the same emphasis on culture, values and training – which may make it difficult to attract and retain top talent in the years ahead.

Remote work 2.0
For many Canadian workplaces, remote work and flexible hours became a reality overnight. Now, they are the “the new normal” and increasingly, an expectation. When respondents were asked to rank the top three criteria of a successful remote work environment, 45 per cent cited flexible work hours, followed closely by managers who trust and listen (44 per cent) and proper equipment (39 per cent).

Two in ten (20 per cent) say their organization will implement flexible hours, rising to one in three manager (32 per cent). Regionally, we see significant differences; 26 per cent of workers in both Ontario and BC expect a move toward flex time, while those in Quebec (14 per cent) and Alberta (12 per cent) consider it less likely.

In a separate survey, Canadians told Randstad they value remote work because it allows them greater work-life balance (42 per cent), saves on commuting time (26 per cent) and allows them greater control of their schedules (18 per cent).

While there has been considerable public discussion about the mental health during the pandemic, only 14 per cent of working Canadians say their organization is providing enhanced or improved benefits like mental health supports. While only 15 per cent of working Canadians overall listed wellness programs among their top three factors for successful remote work, for Generation Z respondents, those born between 1998 and 2003, this almost doubles to 28 per cent.

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Leading with empathy and efficiency
For the majority of leaders (82 per cent), navigating the pandemic has forced a change in leadership style. One in three (34 per cent) are more flexible now, while more than a quarter (28 per cent) say they’re taking additional time to check-in with employees one-on-one and close to 20 per cent say they’ve become more open and vulnerable about their own experiences and challenges.

“In the past year, successful leaders have led with empathy. They’ve recognized and acknowledged their employees’ challenges, as well as their own, and in sharing their own experiences, they have been able to build deeper levels of trust and respect,” said Dominic Lévesque, Group President, Randstad Canada. “The pandemic has shown us strong leadership can include vulnerability.”

This understanding has been complemented by a focus on efficiency, in the form of improving processes, for 25 per cent of leaders, along with a stronger awareness of the tools their teams need to do their jobs well (20 per cent).

The big gap: culture and values in the post-pandemic workplace
According to Lévesque, many businesses aren’t ready for the post-COVID workplace because they’ve overlooked the importance of culture and values over the past year. “There’s a real disconnect between the way companies are using technology to stay connected but failing to connect on culture and values – the survey validates what we’ve heard anecdotally from Canadian workers since the pandemic’s onset.”

A majority (61 per cent) agree the transition to remote work has significantly changed their company’s culture and almost half (47 per cent) report it has become harder to connect with their organization’s corporate values.

As organizations adopt hybrid work models, cultural cohesion will take on even greater importance. “Culture is not about where people work, but how they work together and what they are working toward,” Lévesque notes. “To thrive amid these new ways of working, organizations need to invest in workplace culture and ensure remote workers are as integrated and included as hybrid and in-office workers, while finding ways to create social engagement across the three work modes.”

More changes on the horizon
COVID-19’s shadow looms large: one in four (26 per cent) expect their organization will add more health and safety measures and protections, beyond those already in place; 16 per cent expect more IT tools and resources for employees, while 15 per cent expect the physical office space will be reduced.

Skills gap: While more than one in ten (14 per cent) believe their organizations will implement more employee skills training, upskilling or reskilling, this low result may be indicative of another critical planning gap. According to the Conference Board of Canada, for every dollar that U.S. organizations invest in learning and development, their Canadian counterparts spend only 81 cents.

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