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2020 – The Year the World Shifted Online

Updated: Feb 15

Written by: Sophia Sountsova (Vice-President Skill)

The years of working 40+ hour weeks at your office desk are long gone – at least for the rest of this year.

There have been a lot of discussions surrounding “flexible” work arrangements over the past few years - it’s the word every company seems to flash when recruiting new talent. A flexible workplace usually means a job that offers you a good work-life balance - more and more people of all generations are looking for this. Part of a flexible work arrangement is a flexible schedule deviating from the general 9 – 5: condensed schedules or varying hours while working from home.

Before 2020, working from home was frowned upon by a lot of companies. It was thought to be infeasible and too difficult to even attempt. Employers didn’t want to deal with the technology, the lack of control, and the possible lack of productivity. No one could’ve even imagined that we would all live through a pandemic that would force us to work from home.

In my opinion, the normalization of working remotely was bound to happen one way or another and, frankly, happened way too late. Working from home should have become the norm back when employees first started taking home their work laptops. I recall, around half a decade ago, my father coming home from work at 6 PM, opening up his work laptop and continuing to work from home. I remember my mother working on weekends. If they were able to work from home on evenings and weekends, why were they not allowed to work from home for a full workday a couple of times a month?

I worked at a company that offered the potential to work from home on Fridays. No one was forced into it, but if you wanted to, you could. In my department, there was no judgement around it either – the majority worked from home and a few people who could not be productive at home worked at the office. It was a win-win as we had plenty of time to have in-person meetings throughout the week, but we were also able to sleep in on Fridays and work from home. For me, this was ideal. Going forward, I would prefer a mix of an in-person/remote work week as it would provide me the balance of connecting with my coworkers at the office while having a few days to myself to concentrate on work, not to mention mornings to myself instead of commuting!

The negative connotations surrounding working from home or leaving work early to take care of something in your personal life needs to disappear. True flexibility would be offering your employees the freedom to do as they’d like – for instance, work from home when they have no in-person meetings at the office or, instead, work at the office if they cannot focus at home. I believe that employees would be more productive if their working styles were tailored to them specifically. Some prefer to work at the office, and some don’t, depending on what an employee has going on that day (such as a doctor’s appointment in the early morning or taking their children to school).

Lastly, I’d like to quickly discuss the ability to transition to 100% online – some companies were not prepared at all. When I was applying for jobs in Canada while studying abroad, I noticed that a lot of companies had technical difficulties during the online interview or did not offer online interviews at all! To think how many candidates got rejected simply because they weren’t in the same country city as the company they were applying to! (side note: to think how many candidates got rejected because of a disability which prevents them from going into the office for an interview. It’s not just international people who are affected by these things)

Barriers are already breaking down – I am seeing more and more WFH job ads open to all Canadians. I even saw a few ads recruiting from all over the world! This is amazing and will help recruiters find top talent, not to mention the benefits from an increased insight into international markets and cut costs from the reduction of office space.

Overall, it is refreshing to finally see companies adapting to online working. Hopefully, they continue to adapt, change and stay flexible so that we are able to work in whichever way we excel. I am itching to go back to the office, but I know that going forward I would benefit from working from home a few times a month.

My cohort at work on March 6th, 2020, a week before we all began working from home


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