Today the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, MaryAnn Mihychuk, announced a new government consultation on flexible work. This consultation allows “every federally regulated worker the right to formally request a flexible work arrangement” and it has been a long time coming as far as I’m concerned.
The work world has changed, the economy has changed, and people need and deserve more flexibility in their schedules. There is no need to have employees chained to desks from 9 to 5 any more. Particularly when many employees now work outside of those hours on smart phones and email.
When I worked as a sports reporter I had to be in the office normal hours – I usually got there by 8 since we had to get the paper out every morning and I was part of the layout team, and was there until 4, except that I also worked nights and evenings because – surprise – that’s when sporting events take place. It was very frustrating and also unhealthy – I was never home, I was eating fast food, I was at a desk or in the car or sitting in a gym or an arena all day. I made no friends beyond my colleagues during the five months I stuck it out.
All of this meant that when I started struggling with work-life balance after my maternity leave I asked for a more flexibility. I was very, very lucky to have a boss who understood that though I started work at 7 am my daycare didn’t open until 8 am, and on the days when my husband was out of town this made things basically impossible. My deputy director allowed me to bring my daughter to work in the mornings and use my designated break to get her to daycare, after my early morning duties were done. Without that support I wouldn’t have been able to make it work. We would have been stuck.
Of course, four years later – almost exactly – I know that balance does not exist on a continuum. We all do our best week to week. But it would be easier to do our best if we all had workplaces that recognized what we can do away from the office.
Sometimes you need to take your laptop to a coffee shop to get work done, or to the library where it’s quiet, or from home while you wait for a delivery. Sometimes you need to not be faced with a hour-long commute or a 20 minute commute through a snow storm.
The government can only push through flexible work for federal employees, though the release from the Minister’s office says they will work with “interested” provinces and territories on this issue. I am hopeful that if the federal government starts adapting other employers will begin understand the benefits. If you want to contribute your thoughts to the consultative process read more here. The government has released a discussion paper and there is also a survey to complete and an email address where any Canadian can send their thoughts or experiences.
The world has changed, the workplace needs to catch up.