Top Eight Workplace Trends in Canada for 2017

Millennials have seen their parents work extremely hard, often in harsh conditions with limited options and are demanding more flexibility, work-life balance and are generally rejecting the notion that a career means being chained to a cubicle with a desk and chair for the next 35 years. In order to attract millennials companies in Canada are rolling out policies to attract this burgeoning group.

More attuned to their options than their parents, millennials want flexibility and autonomy in their work. They want the freedom to be creative and to know their ideas are heard. Most of all, they want to enjoy work and care about what they do.

At Aspire-Canada, we’ve covered some exciting changes in company benefits and culture that aim to attract and retain the changing workforce.

Here are the top 8 workplace trends in Canada we hope to see grow in 2017.

1. Paid Parental Leave

For federal and provincial employees in Canada this is a given – paid parental leave is generous for both men and women and cover a range of benefits from maternity/paternity leave to care and nurturing leave.  However, in the private sector its a different story.  Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen some major companies announce expansions to their parental leave policies.

Based in Ottawa, Canada, Shopify offers generous child care benefits: a baby bonus of $1,000 and $3,000 annually until the child is 5 years old. Maternal and paternal leave up to 17 weeks off, at 85% take-home pay for maternity leave, and 3 weeks at 100% pay for parental leave. This is also a great perk for parents – Shopify also offers free house cleaning – up two hours of free house cleaning every two weeks!

Microsoft offers 12 weeks paid, Adobe offers 26 weeks to new moms and 16 weeks to primary caregivers and other parents, and Netflix offers one full year of as much paid time off as new parents need.

In 2016, Etsy announced new moms and dads get 26 weeks’ (six months) fully-paid leave for birth or adoption.

Tech start-ups in Canada have always been workplace trendsetters. The tipping point comes when major traditional companies start to adopt similar policies.

In 2016, both Amex and IKEA announced paid parental leave for their employees.

IKEA offers up to four months’ paid leave for both salaried and hourly workers. American Express offers 20 paid weeks to both full- and part-time employees, plus reimbursement for adoption and fertility treatments.

Companies including IBM and Johnson and Johnson also offer competitive parental leave policies.

With these companies offering the benefit to thousands of employees in Canada around the world, we expect to see many others following suit.

2. Child Care Assistance

The rising cost of child care in Canada has become a burden to many young families. Millennials in the workforce are paying a lot more than their parents did.

Average Canadian child-care costs are climbing three times faster than inflation — up eight per cent since 2014 — and that could mean an extra $1,000 a year for parents in cities where daycare is most expensive, according to a new report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives..

Toronto ranks as the most expensive for all age groups, from a median of $1,649 a month for infants, to $1,375 a month for toddlers and $1,150 a month for preschoolers.

The University Health Network, Canada’s largest academic health sciences centre, operating three major hospitals and a research institute, Toronto, offers maternity leave benefit to 85%–93% of salary for up to 25 weeks, on-site daycare plus partnerships with off-site daycares for employees who commute.  The company also offers benefits of up to $5,000 to help with costs associated with adoption.

Savvy companies are starting to understand this burden and offer onsite daycare or child care subsidies for employees with children. This is becoming an important tool for recruiting top talent and supporting working parents.

3. Unlimited Paid Vacation Leave

With his call for unlimited vacation days, Virgin founder Richard Branson may very well usher in a new era of rested and satisfied workers who avoid burnout and enjoy a more rewarding work-life balance. Branson has introduced his no-limit vacation policy to Virgin’s offices in the U.S. and U.K., with plans to extend it to subsidiaries should the move prove successful.

A flexible schedule and working from home are great, but what about taking vacation whenever you want?

Shopify offers its employees paid unlimited paid vacation.  In 2013, the company hosted a weekend getaway for employees and their spouses at a ski village in Quebec. It was a nod to the company’s roots as a startup that powered an online snowboard store.

Based in Vancouver, Canada, Unbounce offers $1000 vacation allowance $500 health and wellness allowance (this applies to absolutely anything that benefits your wellbeing) and a $500 networking allowance.

Unlimited paid vacation days mean employees can take time off when they need it without budgeting within a limit. That’s attractive for potential applicants.

It’s attractive for employers, too. Offering unlimited vacation days actually saves companies money, Time reports. Worried about not getting all their work done or looking lazy, employees actually tend to take fewer days off when there’s no limit.

Getting unlimited vacation days actually puts additional responsibility on the employee to decide how much is appropriate. Instead, companies can likely do better by employees by offering generous vacation policies — with limits.

3. Unlimited paid sick days.

With the exception of Prince Edward Island, no province or territory in Canada guarantees a minimum number of paid sick days for employees. Across the country, young people, seniors and low-wage workers are the hardest hit.

In addition, not only do countless Canadians lack paid sick days, many are at risk of losing their job for unexpected illness. In Ontario alone, 1.6 million people cannot rely on any labour legislation for protection against losing their jobs for taking a sick day without pay.

The phenomenon of presenteeism (people coming to work despite being sick) is endemic in our work culture and has been estimated to cost Canadian businesses $15-25 billion per year.

The Bank of Montreal, offers a benefit called People Care Days, which gives managers the discretion to offer short, paid time off to employees during regular work hours. It is intended to help employees balance multiple work and non-work commitments. Typical usage includes time off for family illness, elder care, moving or even parent-teacher meetings. The benefit has no maximum limit.

Many argue that setting a limit is tough. It creates a target for generally-well employees to make excuses to take time off, and it creates stressful restriction for those who are hit with unexpected health issues or sick kids.

Unlimited sick days means employees can take care of themselves and keep their germs away from others.

4. Remote Work

Virtual companies are entirely online, backed by a team of employees that work remotely. Once a futuristic feature of tech startups, this trend is infiltrating many industries in Canada now.

You can do everything from social media management to bookkeeping from the comfort of your home.

The traditional desk job is undergoing a giant culture shift, and employers and IT departments need to be ready for it.

In a new study—The Death of the Desk Job, put out by North American IT solutions company Softchoice—78% of the 1,700 North American full-time employees surveyed said they highly value the ability to access work outside of office. 86% value being able to choose where and which hours they work, and 70% said they’d quit their job for one that gives them more control over their workday structures.

5. Human Resources Transformation

An emerging field called people analytics – part of the big data trend – is transforming human resources in Canada. By collecting data and analyzing employee activities and behaviour, companies can get new insights to help them operate more efficiently. That’s hardly a revolutionary idea, but a few converging trends—the abundance of data and wearable technology—are allowing businesses to examine employee behaviour with more precision than ever.

Retention is one of the first areas in which companies have deployed people analytics. Credit Suisse Group looks at a variety of data points, including performance reviews and a manager’s team size, to determine which workers are likely to quit. That allows senior management to intervene before someone quits, instead of having to conduct an exit interview to find out what the problems are – which is more of a reactive strategy.

 Productivity is another area of focus. Seattle-based VoloMetrix analyzes employees’ emails and calendars to determine how they are spending their time. Microsoft recently acquired VoloMetrix and deployed the software at its Canadian headquarters.

6. Free, Healthy Food

Shopify, Google Canada and LinkedIn Canada are among a growing number of companies who offer a benefit millennials can’t get enough of: free food.

But it’s more than just free, it’s freshly-made, healthy food. Shopify has an onsite chef that prepares meals for employees and to make the culinary experience even more fun – Shopify offers a coffee bar with espresso and cappuccino machines plus premium beans. A yoga studio is located next to office space; there’s an arcade; and there’s a race track for tricycles being built.  There is even a slide — in its cafeteria to help employees break up their day.

With a growing focus on healthy eating hitting everything from school lunches to fast food menus, employees are less satisfied with donuts and pizza in the break room. Providing fresh, wholesome foods helps us save money and work better (no sugar crashes!).

7. Tuition Assistance

School is expensive in Canada, but luckily some companies are starting to take notice and take action. Several companies have added tuition reimbursement or assistance to their employment benefit rosters.

For example, the Bank of Canada gives full tuition subsidies up to $7,000 to each employee for courses related to their position and reimburses 75 per cent of tuition for unrelated courses up to the same amount. In contrast, Bayer Inc. pays a total maximum of $7,000 in tuition subsidies for any courses completed by individual staff members.

Toyota Canada also offers subsidized tuition for continuing studies.

8. Changing the Dress Code

Dressing up for work continues to go out of style, new research from staffing firm OfficeTeam shows. One in five (21 per cent) Canadian senior managers interviewed said employees wear less formal clothing than they did five years ago. In addition, 19 per cent of office workers stated they would prefer to be at a company with a business casual dress code; 32 per cent favour a casual dress code or no dress code at all.

In 2016, Starbucks Canada revamped the company’s attire rules to include gray, navy, dark denim and brown tops along with shirts with small stripes, tone-on-tone plaids and tight patterns. Employees can also wear pants, shorts, skirts or dresses in grey, navy, brown, khaki and black, as well as dark-washed blue jeans. Employees can also have up to two piercings per ear and a small nose stud. Other jewelry will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis due to food-safety requirements.

Along with vibrant-coloured hair, staffers are likewise permitted to put on knitted beanies, fedoras and other suitable hats in brown, grey or black. Scarves, neckties and colourful socks have also been given the OK.

The changes have taken effect at the company’s 1,300 locations in Canada – which employs approximately 20,000 workers across Canada.

What workplace trends do you want to see continue in 2017? Which would you do away with?

Career Advice, INVESTING IN YOUR CAREER