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‘A magnet, not a mandate’: how some big Canadian companies are reshaping the office – National


Sixteen months after the start of the COVID-19 health emergency in North America, it looks like working from home is going to last longer than the pandemic.

The forced exodus from cubicles and meeting rooms has taught employers that “you can trust your employees and they will work when they are not in the office,” says Jane Griffith, managing partner and founder of Griffith Group Executive Search.

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But most companies don’t leave the office entirely. The corporate buzzword for job setups after a pandemic is “hybrid model,” says Griffith. For many employees, in other words, part of the work will take place at home and part, once again, at the office.


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The ability to permanently work from home for at least a few days a week has become a key request for many candidates, HR experts and recruiters say. And companies are taking notice.

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“Flexible and hybrid work models are here to stay,” wrote Dave McKay, CEO of RBC, in a recent LinkedIn post.

The bank leaves the task of devising flexible arrangements to suit their needs to its leaders and commercial teams, he added.

“Over the next several months, we will test and learn as we go and adjust our plans along the way.”

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Another financial industry giant, Sun Life Financial, has said it will allow its 12,000 Canadian employees to decide which deal suits their needs.

Following the announcement, the company is seeing “even more interest from top talent in industry professionals,” says Oricia Smith, President of Sunlife Global Investments and Senior Vice President of Investment Solutions within Sunlife Assurance Company of Canada.

Employers who insist on the old-fashioned workweek in the office now are often at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting new hires and retaining employees, Griffith says.

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It’s primarily mid-size companies where Griffith is seeing an outdated attachment to employees checking in at the office Monday through Friday. But that expectation is often met with “job market downturn,” he says.

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Even retaining staff is becoming a problem for companies that don’t allow flexibility, according to Griffith.

“Some might argue that there has been an exodus of those companies,” he says.


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Smith also believes that hybrid models will help drive diversity.

“Making flexible options more accessible and encouraging men to use them will also result in a much more productive and diverse workplace,” he says.

A mother of three teenagers, one of whom is a competitive athlete who still practiced at 6 a.m. every day at Zoom, Smith says she has seen the benefits of working from home firsthand.

That flexibility became even more important in recent months, when Smith’s mother was hospitalized and had to undergo surgery and then rehabilitation.

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“Making time on a Friday to visit my mom in the hospital, when it was allowed, or just stop by for lunch with my dad, who was very independent but home alone, became a very high priority for me,” he says. .

Still, both employers and employees are willing to maintain at least some attachment to the office, Griffith says. Requests for full-time remote work by job candidates remain relatively rare, he says. And companies generally want staff to check in at the office at least a few days a week, he says.

At Sunlife, the office will continue to be a place for employees to meet with each other and with employees, Smith says.

“We want our offices to be a magnet, not a mandate.”

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