The national lockdown to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 has resulted in many Canadians working from home.
Statistics Canada provided reported earlier this month that almost 40 per cent of Canada’s jobs can be done from home.
As the country progresses through varying stages of reopening and reintegration of the workforce, an Ottawa executive offers tips based on what she has learned about working remotely and her predictions for how this experience will permanently affect the workforce.
Sonya Shorey is the vice-president of strategy, marketing and communication for Invest Ottawa and Bayview Yards, the City of Ottawa’s main economic development agency. She has more than 20 years of experience managing teams and working remotely. The experience of working from home is something with which she’s already familiar.
“I would say I’m a road warrior in some respects. I have routinely worked from home, so for me it was the opportunity to share some of the lessons I’ve learned and to learn new ones,” Shorey said. Her experience with remote work prepared her for the changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shorey said she believes this transition might have been quite challenging for some so and hopes this advice for employers and employees can help navigate the new world of work.
First, Shorey said, bosses can take step to help remote workers during this time.
She said incorporating regular face-to-face interaction provides human connection and creates structure for the employees. To effect that, a manager could hold a regular morning meeting to check in via videoconference and clarify the priorities for the day and then also touch base again at the end of the day.
As well, Shorey said it is about creating support for the employees. Specifically, Shorey described establishing networks and access to experts for mental health support.
“Those needs are on a very large sliding scale. Some of us have a bad day; in other cases, there can be very significant challenges people are wrestling with through periods like this,” Shorey said.
For remote workers, Shorey said it is important to define goals and to understand areas in which they’re struggling, so a possible solution can be tested and adjusted.
Managing well involves “defining what you are struggling with, seeking support and experts to help you identify solutions,” Shorey said. “There’s lots of opportunities to try different approaches.”
Moving forward, Shorey said she expects that the workforce will move between home and an office.
“We will emerge from the COVID-19 era with a hybrid model that takes the best experiences of working entirely remotely and blends them with the very important human connections and collaborations that’s delivered through an in-office environment,” she said.
Maintaining a work-life balance is key, according to Shorey. And an easy way to keep this balance in staying in close touch with loved ones. More specifically, when creating a hybrid work environment, it is essential that the human connection is not lost but utilized properly, Shorey elaborated.
“There is nothing that can replace that human connection. It fuels me,” Shorey explained. “The ability to bring that experience online, it pushes us to be better, it pushes us to discover new ways of doing things, to save costs, to be more productive, and equally impactful.”
The beauty of the new work era is that it will be flexible, it will be customized, and it will allow those of us who have, perhaps, other commitments — elderly parents, that we’re caring for, children, other needs — to really work in a new productive way because it was essential given the pandemic.Sonya Shorey
For Shorey, this means a new workforce that is customized for the needs of the employers, the employees and the clients. The transition to that reality requires collaboration and a level of trust and faith between the employer and the employee.
As such, employers need to be committed to working with employees to find what works and what success looks like for them, then making a plan that both parties agree upon.
“The beauty of the new work era is that it will be flexible, it will be customized, and it will allow those of us who have, perhaps, other commitments — elderly parents, that we’re caring for, children, other needs — to really work in a new productive way because it was essential given the pandemic,” said Shorey.
“The opportunity to customize new work arrangements is going to be so powerful for the attraction and retention of talent,” Shorey said. The tech sector has always been looking for ways to retain talent, and the ability for an employer to be flexible and adaptable is an added advantage.
“We need to look to harness that power,” Shorey said, adding that it is “absolutely one of the silver linings” of the COVID-19 crisis.
This is an extended version of a segment on the Capital Current Instagram page.