Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

The weight of responsibility can be overwhelming for business leaders.

 

They are constantly under pressure to drive growth, manage teams, make critical decisions, and ensure their organizations’ long-term success, which is something Debra Burke, Head of Client Success at H2R Business Solutions says has only been magnified in the recent years.

 

“Since the pandemic, some things have really changed. They changed during the pandemic and somewhat again since then,” she says, referring to a rise in negative conflicts which can lead to a toxic environment and even workplace investigations. 

 

“We’re seeing an unbelievable amount of those kinds of problems coming into play in organizations and have leaders coming to us because they’ve never had to deal with them before but are dealing with them much more often.”

 

She says employees have become more empowered with information, and that many are dealing with mental health issues and feeling ‘angry’.

 

“They may not be working with the same expectations in their jobs that they used to and for some people, there are more challenges as they deal with downsizing, and shifts,” says Debra, adding bigger workloads, and hybrid work situations could be adding to these stresses since they may no longer ‘align’ with what an employee wants.

 

As a result, she says many leaders are now seeing more employees who are willing to take employers to court, or a human rights tribunal, or filing a report with the Ministry of Labour.

 

“Leaders who may never really had many people issues to deal with are now finding they are faced with all kinds of these things just to keep the business going,” says Debra. 

 

She says the challenges can vary between the several generations of employees that are now in the workplace, noting there are still many benefits of having a multi-generational workforce despite potential issues.

 

Leadership can be isolating

 

“For a leader, becoming someone who has to manage all these things that come to play and the nuances and potential conflicts, plus the lack of time and resources, it’s very challenging,” says Debra. “When someone says being a leader can be a very isolating place, they are not wrong.”

 

She says leaders must first watch for warning signs and realize they don’t have all the answers.

 

As the demands of leadership continue to mount, it is vital for leaders to discover effective strategies to ease their burden and navigate their roles successfully, which Debra says can start with better communication.

 

“As a leader, you have to get comfortable with communicating. Employees want messaging and they want to hear it from the owner, CEO, or an executive,” she says, adding that a communication breakdown is often the key cause of any conflict, and that lack of management training could be the root cause. “When you do a job well and get promoted to management, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be a good people manager.”

 

As well, Debra says leaders can benefit from expert support from others who may have experienced the same issues they are facing, even those outside of a leader’s particular industry.

 

“I’m not a big fan of coaching for your own industry. You can receive a lot of benefits from working with a diverse support group,” she says. “Even if you feel like you’re an introvert CEO or leader, you might be really surprised how much that support is going to mean to you.”

 

And while some companies and industries are dealing with tight budgets, Debra says investing in training can pay off big time for a leader professionally and personally, as well as the organization.

 

“Those things are going to trickle down through an organization in powerful and impactful ways,” she says.

 

 

Several strategies to lighten the burden of leadership

 

Delegation and empowerment

Many leaders fall into the trap of trying to do everything themselves, fearing that no one else can handle the responsibilities as well. However, effective delegation distributes the workload and fosters team development and growth.

By entrusting capable team members with tasks and responsibilities, leaders can free up valuable time and mental energy to focus on strategic decision-making and higher-priority matters. Delegation is not just about offloading tasks but also about giving team members the opportunity to contribute and grow.

 

Building a support system

Establishing a support system of mentors, advisors, or fellow business leaders can provide valuable guidance and emotional support. Sharing experiences and seeking advice from those who have faced similar challenges can be invaluable.

Additionally, leaders should foster a culture of open communication within their organizations. Encouraging team members to share their thoughts and concerns can lead to more collaborative problem-solving and reduce the burden on the leader.

 

Embracing technology and automation

Automation can handle routine tasks, data analysis, and reporting, allowing leaders to focus on strategic initiatives. Investing in technology solutions that align with the organization’s goals and processes can significantly reduce the administrative burden on leaders. Moreover, data-driven insights can aid in making informed decisions and staying ahead of market trends.

 

Setting realistic goals and expectations

While ambition is essential, setting achievable goals and expectations is equally crucial. Unrealistic targets can lead to stress and burnout, as well as erode team morale. Leaders should work with their teams to establish realistic objectives and timelines. This approach fosters a sense of accomplishment and helps prevent the exhaustion that can result from chasing unattainable goals.

 

Continuous learning and development

Continuous learning and professional development are essential for effective leadership. Leaders should invest in their own growth by attending seminars, workshops, and courses relevant to their industry. Also, encouraging team members to pursue their own professional development can contribute to the organization’s success and ease the burden on leaders.

 

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While economic and technological shocks will always be a constant feature of our world, experts say small businesses must continue to adapt and innovate to stay competitive and satisfy consumer preferences.

 

“The adoption of technology should be the priority for small businesses and the adoption of AI where it can help bolster their business should also be a priority,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher, noting 98% of Canadian businesses qualify as small businesses.

 

In its recent report entitled, A Portrait of Small Business in Canada: Adaption, Agility, All At Once, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce touches on this issue as it explores the integral role small businesses  in play in Canada’s economy and sheds light on how these businesses can thrive despite major economic forces working against them — including the rising cost of doing business, the highest borrowing costs in over two decades and increased pandemic debt loads.

 

The report, which defines ‘micro businesses’ as having 1-4 employees, ‘scale businesses’ as 5-19 employees, and ‘mature businesses’ as 19-99 employees, shows how small businesses of all sizes, ages and industries are already investing in technology to better access data and applications from their computers, tablets, or mobile phones — whether in the office or on the road — to connect better with their customers and employees. However, as the report indicates, a business’s size is important to its ability to not only adopt technology, but also take advantage of a variety of technology tools. The report finds that even more change is essential.

 

Greg agrees and says the need for smaller businesses to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) is especially imperative.

 

“In all probability, smaller businesses are less likely to adopt AI technology because they may be fearful of it,” he says. “But the fact of the matter is it may be the only tool that can bring them up and allow them to compete.”

 

AI and digital technologies

 

According to the report, across all industries, a higher proportion of small businesses planned to invest in AI and digital technologies. While 62% of micro firms (compared with an average of 55% for all small firms) expressed plans for the latter, 30% of mature firms were keen on investing in AI compared with the all-industry average of 24% for all small businesses. Scale and mature businesses were more likely to adopt multiple technology tools, especially those in finance and insurance, professional services, and wholesale trade.

 

“If they (small businesses) don’t get knee deep in AI from a business perspective, they may be missing the boat that was inevitably sent to save them,” says Greg.

 

The report also highlights trends to help small businesses adapt to how Canadian shoppers have evolved. While online shopping accelerated as a result of the pandemic, roughly 75% of Canadian shoppers still visit physical stores for key items like groceries, clothing, automotive, electronics, home and garden, and health products. To meet consumer preferences, businesses need to implement on and offline sales strategies to reach customers.

 

In the report, the critical importance of having an enticing online commercial presence is highlighted, with 83% of Canadian retail shoppers reporting they conduct online research before they visit a store. Having physical stores near customers also supports online sales, with nearly one in 10 Canadians making purchases online from retailers located nearby.

 

“There is still an opportunity for small businesses to capitalize on local business by advertising and marketing themselves locally,” says Greg. “But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a strong online presence and look for every opportunity in which AI can help advance your cause.”

 

Canadian Chamber President & CEO Perrin Beatty says the findings in this report provides yet another signal that more focus is needed to support growth, especially among small businesses.

 

“We can start by reducing red tape, investing in infrastructure, and enabling an innovation economy,” he said in a press release. “These fundamentals of growth will increase Canadian businesses’ ability to compete and attract investment that will benefit Canadians, their families, and our communities.”

 

Click here to read the report.

 

 

Highlights of the report:

 

  • In June 2023, there were 1.35 million businesses in Canada with paid employees. The over- whelming majority (98% of the total) were conventionally classified as “small” businesses, which collectively employed over 11 million people.
  • In the “small business” category, micro firms are by far the most common businesses type in Canada. In fact, if all businesses in Canada were sorted by employment size, the median firm would have fewer than five employees, which underscores the importance of improving our understanding of the business realities of all small firms, but especially micro firms.
  • Nearly half of all small businesses are in the following four industries: professional, scientific, and technical services; construction; retail trade; and health care and social assistance.
  • Immigrants to Canada own a disproportionate share of private sector businesses (263,850 businesses, or 25.5% of all private sector businesses) compared with their share of population (23%). One strong factor is immigrants’ high share of micro businesses (30%), in contrasts with their underrepresentation in both scale and mature enterprises.
  • The past few years have offered women more flexible work arrangements, encouraging them to find more in-demand and higher-paying jobs, while government efforts to increase the availability of affordable childcare have helped women’s labour force participation to rebound. With the transition back to the office, barriers that perpetuate gender-based differences in labour force participation threaten this progress.
  • An underrepresented group in terms of business ownership (2.2%) compared with their share of the population (22%) is persons with a disability. Given the prevalence of disability, this gap signals tremendous untapped potential for entrepreneurship, but also one with significant potential effects on socio-economic outcomes, including labour market participation.
  • The LGBTQ2+ population (4% of Canada’s total population according to the 2021 Census) is also somewhat underrepresented as business owners (3.3%), lagging most as owners of mature businesses (0.6%).
  • Although they are 5% of the country’s population, Indigenous people’s share of businesses owned remains less than half of that (2.2%), although they appear to be doing better on ownership of mature businesses, the largest type of small business.
  • The most recent data (June 2023) show that, compared with pre-pandemic conditions in December 2019, the number of businesses increased by 7.3% for large firms, 5.0% for medium firms and only 2.9% for small firms.
  • Retail sales data show that e-commerce enjoyed a massive spike early in the pandemic but have since moderated as Canadians go back to in-person shopping. The share of total retail sales from e-commerce increased rapidly from 3.7% in January 2020 to peak of 10.7% just four months later in April 2020. With the lifting of pandemic related restrictions and stores have reopened for in-person shoppers, this figure has since moderated to 5.7%.
  • In addition to age, variation by industry showed a strong trend in technology adoption. Overall, average adoption shares across all industries and all technology tools were lowest for micro firms (12%), followed by scale (16%) and then mature firms (22%). Small businesses — particularly scale and mature — in finance and insurance, information and culture, professional services and wholesale trade were consistently among those reporting the highest technology adoption rates.
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Flexible work hours, new technology, and ever-changing workplaces has made it more difficult when it comes to setting healthy boundaries at work.

 

Factor in ongoing labour shortages and retention issues in many sectors, it’s now more important than ever for employers to create an environment where employees feel comfortable and productive.

 

“As people continue to move back into the workplace, you want to do it in stages. You don’t want to do it all at once,” recommends Carrie Thomas, owner of Nimbus HR Solutions Group, a Chamber Member. “Many people don’t really have a workday anymore they have a workflow, and we don’t even have boundaries and have let them all go.”

 

She says workplace boundaries can be broken into several categories, including physical, intellectual and emotional, communication, time, and priority and workload, and that each requires employers and employees to have a clear indication of what their work expectations are.

 

“If work performance isn’t where it needs to be, as a leader, we need to ask ourselves why? Does the employee feel comfortable here and does the task match?” says Carrie. “Are we having those candid conversations with our employees to say these are the clear expectations I need from you? Maybe I missed something on your onboarding?”

 

She recommends creating a 90-day commitment plan to ensure a new employee can get up to speed, and to give returning employees time to get back into the flow.

 

“If an employee was away from work for medical reasons, we would create a return-to-work plan and it would be gradual,” says Carrie, adding that most SMEs owners spend at least 90% of their time dealing with people and people problems and that using a professional HR company can help ease those stresses. “We like to put the power of a full-service HR department into the hands of the small business owner so they can focus on the business of running their businesses.”

 

 

The team at Nimbus HR Solutions Group Inc. – Carrie Thomas, Danielle Delnick and Janette McDonald – provided the following advice when it comes to creating healthy workplace boundaries:

 

How would you define ‘healthy’ workplace boundaries?

Healthy workplace boundaries are an agreement and understanding between the employer and employee on what a person requires to be effective, successful, and even over-achieve in their work.

It is a balance between the needs of the employee versus the needs of the business. Overall wellness impacts a person’s ability to produce quality work, the happier, more fulfilled and balanced a person feels the better the output from them. Investing in a health work environment and company culture is a more cost-effective solution as it promotes retention and ultimately lowers the cost of recruitment and training.

 

Examples:

 

  • Promoting break periods: We all know people who eat lunch quickly at their desk while they continue to work. Promoting actual break periods away from the desk/workstation.
  • Limiting over-time, unless necessary: If constant over-time is happening for your business, there’s a good chance you have a hiring need.
  • Ensuring over-time is paid correctly.
  • Setting clear working hours: Limiting communication TO employees outside of them (we know that legally they don’t have to respond, but we also know people are reading them and potentially stressing from home).
  • Work cellphones: Companies providing work phones that can be turned off outside of working hours that don’t go through to personal lines.
  • Clear communication and management of projects.
  • Keeping emotions out of interactions: We all have seen movies where the boss raises their voice, demoralizes, or bullies their subordinate. If an employee’s work performance is not meeting the expectations of the company, managers are not entitled to yell or belittle them. There is a more effective way to communicate with someone who has failed.
  • Open door policies: Providing an environment where managers encourage feedback, questions, and input from their team.
  • Having and promoting an Employee Assistance Program (“EAP”) with your Employee Benefits Plan.
  • Company employee appreciation events (balancing work/fun).

 

When people return to the workplace, or continue with hybrid models, what potential steps should employers take to make the transition smoother?

 

  • Consider completing the transition in stages. This would be especially useful if your team is moving back to a fully on-site model.
  • Take an employee census to determine how they will be feeling about the move back to onsite to give you a better sense of what the culture will be like.
  • Encourage team lunches to build up in-person comradery.
  • Adjust your dress code policy: If possible, consider implementing a more workplace – casual dress code that is professional and comfortable. For example, some companies have incorporated a “athleisure” dress code and even provided them with company branded comfy sweats.

 

How can an employer help employees communicate their needs?

Establishing rapport with employees: The more employees trust their employer, the more likely they are to communicate when experiencing any challenges.

Establishing rapport with employees immediately is an excellent way to encourage open communication.

For example, managers can bring lunch for their teams, and instead of discussing business, they can encourage everyone to share their interests and lives. This might be a modest gesture, but it can work as an excellent way to help employees begin communicating with each other.

 

  • Having an open-door policy
  • Have regular meetings with employees.
  • Provide context regarding assignments.
  • Listen to employees.
  • Avoid making assumptions.
  • Learn employees’ strengths and weaknesses.
  • Regularly set expectations.
  • Provide constructive feedback.
  • Make roles clear from the start.
  • Choose a suitable method of communication.
  • Use tools to enhance communication: Keep in mind that messaging platforms, video conferencing, and e-mail are excellent communication tools but if you discover they're ineffective in your workplace, continuing to use them can result in communication challenges. If possible, try to take the conversation offline and speak to employees in person. Changing your communication method can simplify tasks and prevent miscommunication.

 

What are the signs that ‘healthy’ workplace boundaries may be lacking in a workplace?

 

  • Low retention
  • Employees edging on/experiencing burn out.
  • Lack of feedback from employees.
  • Hands-off management styles.
  • High sick calls/absenteeism.
  • Employees feel the need to answer emails regularly outside of work hours (and managers expect this).
  • Employees are unable to take vacation time, personal time.
  • Workplace gossip is rampant.
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The much-anticipated introduction of the Canada-Wide Early Learning and Child Care plan and its goal to introduce its $10 a-day program by 2026 has created a higher demand for spaces as regulated child-care facilities struggle to find qualified staff, which in turn has impacted the economy as parents, many of them women, forgo entering or re-entering the workforce to stay home with their children.

 

“As the plan was introduced right at the beginning of 2023 fees have been cut in half and that has opened up the opportunity for a lot more families to access care that couldn’t, or didn’t, in the past,” says YWCA Cambridge CEO Kim Decker, noting the long wait lists it has created at the organization’s four school-based centres. “We now have parents calling us when they find out they are pregnant to see if they can get their kids on the list for child care because there just aren’t enough spaces.”

 

She says the national plan is being implemented in different ways by provinces and territories, explaining the political ‘will’ of each is dictating what level of success they will reach. In Ontario, which committed to reach $10 per day and create 86,000 new spaces by 2026 when it secured a deal last March with the Government of Canada, Kim says the plan has fallen short.

 

“It’s a status quo funding model and there’s no real opportunity for growth,” she says. “There needs to be a growth plan that accompanies this.”

 

Child-care ‘deserts’ created

 

Kim says the national plan was put in place to not only reduce fees for parents, but create spaces, particularly for those living in underserviced areas. Quoting a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Kim says 53% of younger children in the province reside in child-care ‘deserts’, adding that Kitchener-Waterloo was identified in the report as being underserviced, despite a push by the Region of Waterloo to the Province to provide more spaces.

 

“Right now, we know that from 2024 to 2026, we will only get another 200 spaces,” she says, adding other local licensed child-care providers are also experiencing space shortages.

 

Kim says the economic impacts of these shortages are being amplified as more companies continue to call employees back to the workplace, explaining that many parents had taken their children out of child care when the pandemic hit but now can no longer find them spaces.

 

“This has disproportionately impacted women because if a family has choices, I will say in most cases it will be the women who will have to make the decision to give up their careers and stay home,” she says. “It’s going to affect the economy and women need to be a big part of our economy if it is going to remain strong.”

 

Chamber submits national policy

 

In effort to alleviate the problem, the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce has submitted a national policy to be considered by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce network at its AGM this fall in Calgary, Alta. Included among our recommendations is a call for the federal and provincial/territorial governments to work together to investigate the possibility of providing subsidization for ECE (early childhood educators) wages and the creation of a fully funded pension and benefits plan in effort to attract more workers into the child-care sector with the goal of reducing wait lists.

 

Labour shortages in terms of attraction and the retention of qualified ECEs has compounded the issue of growing wait lists. As noted in a recent response released by the YWCA Ontario Coalition to the Province regarding its CWELCC discussion paper on the child-care funding formula, the group identified the fact the plan is based on operating capacity rather than licensed capacity. YWCA Ontario’s response states many Ontario child-care operators are operating below licensed capacity due to recruitment and retention issues yet must still bear the costs of maintaining rooms and unoccupied spaces which makes it difficult to hire additional staff to fill those empty spaces.

 

YWCA dealing with staffing crisis

 

“We are in a staffing crisis right now,” says Kim, adding the local YWCA has used reserved funds to hire someone to work with its director of child-care services on recruitment and retention. “We need to be able to staff the spaces we already have.”

 

The Province has set a wage floor of $18 an hour for ECEs, with Ontario’s Minister of Education Stephen Lecce recently announcing an increase of $1 a year annually up to $25.

 

“That’s not going to work,” says Kim. “It needs a whole new way of thinking and a whole new strategy, and a real commitment to paying people what they are worth.”

 

The Association of Early Childhood Educators of Ontario has called for a minimum of $30 an hour for ECEs and $25 an hour for non-ECE staff members. Either one or two of the workers in a child-care room are required to be an ECE, depending on the age of the children.

 

“They have the responsibility for our youngest learners and creating a foundation and baseline for them going forward. It is a really important job and for a very long time, we’ve devalued the work child-care workers provide in our community,” says Kim, adding how local child-care workers were one of the first groups to return to work a few months after the pandemic began in 2020, allowing parents to get back to work sooner. “I think the pandemic also shone a light on how the whole care economy has been underpaid for a really long period of time and child care is part of that.”

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The Ontario government will launch a first-of-its-kind program June 1 to make free naloxone kits (and free training) available at workplaces where there is a risk of staff witnessing or experiencing an opioid overdose.

 

In 2022, there were 2,521 confirmed probable opioid deaths in Ontario, which represents a 12% drop in cases compared to 2021. Despite this, the number of deaths last year remains substantially higher compared to what was observed prior to the pandemic (2017-2019).

 

Naloxone is a life-saving medication that can temporarily reverse an opioid overdose, restore breathing within two to five minutes, and allow time for medical help to arrive.

 

“Ontario, like the rest of Canada, is in the middle of an opioid epidemic made worse by a toxic supply of recreational street drugs,” said Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development, when the program was first announced last year.

 

According to a report released last summer by researchers from the Ontario Drug Police Research Network (ODPRN) at St. Michael’s Hospital, one in 13 opioid-related deaths in the province between 2018 and 2020 occurred in the construction sector. The reasons behind this, say researchers, are a complicated mix of pain management, job insecurity and having nowhere else to turn.

 

Bars and nightclubs have also seen increased opioid usage and accidental overdoses, often because of recreational drugs laced with deadly opioids such as fentanyl and carfentanil.

 

For up to two years, Ontario will provide free nasal spray naloxone kits to businesses at risk of opioid overdoses through the Workplace Naloxone Program and free training needed to equip staff with the tools to respond to an opioid overdose.

 

Businesses can determine if they are eligible for the program and find additional information on accessing naloxone kits and training at Ontario.ca/workplacenaloxone. Once the requirement is in effect, Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development’s inspectors will take an education-first approach to enforcement.

 

 

We reached out to Tushar Anandasagar and Hina Ghaus at Gowling WLG to provide some legal insight as to what this new legislation will mean for some businesses:

 

Q. What prompted the Province to introduce this OHSA legislation?

 

A. The province is recognizing that the ongoing opioid crisis is affecting workplaces across the province – something needed to be done.

Opioid overdoses may be preventable or possible to delay (to an extent) – the province has adopted the role of educating employers on steps they can take to recognize and reduce the severity of overdoses.

These measures also have the effect of reducing the load on the healthcare system – the province is pushing for early triage and prevention rather than escalation.

We’re already doing many of the same things when it comes to allergies – for instance, many workers with severe allergies are already carrying around EpiPens.

Many social changes start at the workplace – there is a good chance that we will start to see this protocol (or something similar) extending beyond the workplace.

The opioid crisis is ubiquitous - we have already seen other provinces discussing the adoption of similar requirements for workplaces.

 

 

Q.  Is there a possibility the free training and access to the kits could be extended beyond two years and could funding be provided by another source?

 

A.  Definitely. Our sense is that this is just the start.  There are numerous benefits associated with early prevention rather than treating severe overdose cases via the healthcare system. A stitch in time saves nine.

 

 

Q. Are workers legally required to make their employers aware they could overdose?

 

A. Not by operation of statute – the onus is on the employer to spot a potential health and safety issue and create systems to make the workplace as safe as possible.  Of course, nothing prevents a worker from voluntarily disclosing a substance use disorder to their employer. Aside from statute, employers may be able to establish early warning systems via fit for duty policies – such a policy would require the employee to report to work while not under the influence of an impairing substance. Employers are then responsible for enforcing the policy.

 

 

Q. What kind of privacy issues come into play with this legislation?

 

A.  An employee’s disclosure of a substance use disorder is considered strictly confidential information – the employer should be prepared to treat this information as it would any other medical information received from an employee

Appropriate protections should be put in place to safeguard the information – shared with only those managers or supervisors who “need to know”.

These issues, and sample scenarios, are discussed in the province’s updated guidance on naloxone in the workplace:  https://www.ontario.ca/page/naloxone-workplace

 

 

Q. What are potential concerns surrounding this legislation, if any, that managers of workplaces deemed as at-risk should be aware of?

 

A. There are risks associated with non-compliance with the OHSA – for instance, primary liability may result if the employer doesn’t run through a naloxone kit risk assessment to determine if there is a risk of a worker overdosing at work.  Every employer is required to do this.

There are also risks associated with running a deficient risk assessment or ignoring risks that come to the employer’s attention – for instance, an employee self-discloses that they have a substance use issue, and the employer does nothing.

Another consideration is what could possibly happen if a worker administers naloxone and the recipient has, for instance, an allergic reaction – as per the province’s current guidance, the Ontario Good Samaritan Act should kick in to relieve workers of liability when they are administering naloxone in good faith.

 

 

Q.  What should be the first steps an at-risk workplace should take when it comes to introducing this program?

 

A. Every workplace needs to run through a naloxone risk assessment – employers may wish to engage a third party to demonstrate that they have done this, as needed.

If naloxone risks are detected during the risk assessment, the employer should plan for implementation by referencing the OHSA guidance published by the province – this will necessarily mean engaging with staff, the OH&S rep, the JHSC, etc.

There are specific training requirements which need to be in place, which have been referenced within the province’s guidance. As needed, the employer should also prepare to procure naloxone kits – there may be free naloxone kits available depending on the sector the employer operates within.

 

 

Q. Can workplaces not deemed ‘at-risk’ access the program?

 

A.  All workplaces can access the Province’s guidelines and training resources. As for the free naloxone kits and on-site training, we know the Province is initially focusing on high-risk workplaces. In future we may see an expansion of the training programs and free kits to non-high-risk environments.

 

 

Q. Is it difficult to make changes to the OHSA?

 

A. Yes and no – some changes are met with objection from employers (and employer associations), trade unions, and other stakeholders (e.g., fine increases, doubling of limitation periods, etc.). It really depends on the type of change that is being made.

 

 

Q.  How will compliance of the legislation be monitored?

 

A. Effective June 1, 2023, we can expect standard MOL audits for employers – they will ask about naloxone kits in the same way that they currently ask about harassment policies, etc. There may also be acute responses triggered by workplace accidents – for instance, if there is a serious workplace accident and there is some indication that substance use disorder may have contributed to the situation, the employer’s risk assessment may be called into question, and they may be found not to have complied with these new OHSA requirements if they failed to identify reasonably apparent risks.

Once again, employers will need to be mindful of proving that they have undergone a risk assessment (document, document, document), particularly if they have concluded that there is no risk in the working environment.

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The concept of a four-day work week has been gaining attention in Ontario, thanks in part to the decision by at least seven municipalities that are now offering their staff the flexibility of that option.

 

But the merits of such a system, which has become commonplace in many European countries including Denmark, Germany, Norway, and the Netherlands, is the subject of much debate among critics and advocates in North America.

 

While there are those who believe implementing a shorter work week is impossible in many sectors resulting in additional costs for overtime or hiring more staff, not to mention placing more stress on employees to get their work done in a shorter time frame, others insist such a system creates a better life balance and overall sense of wellbeing that can inspire increased productivity.

 

“There has been a lot of upheaval in workplaces which has opened the doors to rethinking arrangements,” says Ellen Russell, Associate Professor of Digital Media & Journalism at Wilfrid Laurier University and a labour market and economics expert.

 

She believes the next generation of employees may not understand the need to have arbitrary time limits placed on their work hours. “If there is not a reason then my guess is these future workers would really find it strange to be so arbitrary for no apparent reason,” says Ellen.

 

This is a subject Joe O’Connor, Director and Co-founder of the Work Time Reduction Center of Excellence (WTRCE), is more than familiar.

 

As the former CEO of 4 Day Week Global, which has been leading four-day work week trial programs with businesses worldwide, including 10 in Canada, he is a strong believer in the concept and through the WTRCE has been partnering with organizations to support their transformation to a shorter work week.

 

His organization is a proponent of reduced work hours schedules, not just a compressed model where employees are required to work 10-hour days four days a week.

 

“Arguably, post COVID-19 quality of life is now the new frontier of competition,” says Joe, adding for many workers it means more than compensation. “One of the things I have observed is the shift towards embracing shorter work weeks has happened at all three traditional layers of the organization.”

 

He believes business leaders have become more ‘open’ to it because they see the potential benefits in terms of attracting and retaining talent, and that many managers are more comfortable with this type of system because they are now familiar with measuring outputs rather the length of time people spend at their desk.

 

“For the employees, it’s really the demand effect. The value people have placed on time as a benefit has greatly increased because of what people experienced during the pandemic,” says Joe.

 

But he is quick to point out there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution when it comes to implementing a shorter work week.

 

“This is not something that should be implemented the same way from business to business, and industry to industry,” he says, adding in larger organizations work models could even vary between departments. “There will still be a need to facilitate different kinds of irregular work patterns based on business needs and employee preferences.”

 

Employee support is key says Joe when it comes to implementing such a drastic change, which means taking a hard look at how an organization operates, noting that introducing a shorter work week could be met with fear and skepticism.

 

“This is something that really works in organizations with very strong work cultures,” he says, adding going through a thorough evaluation process can galvanize a team as efficiencies are found so they can accommodate that addtional time off. “There is a real collectiveness at the heart of this and it relies on a commitment within teams and departments to find ways to change how they do things together to make it a success.”

 

Joe is confident within the next few years shorter work weeks will be the norm in sectors like information and communication technologies, software companies, and financial services. He also notes that two Canadian law firms, YLaw in B.C. and The Ross Firm in Ontario, have both switched to a four-day work week, something many in the legal industry deemed would be impossible due their current billing systems.

Joe says YLaw accomplished this shift by finding efficiencies in its operations and the latter firm did it by implementing a fixed fee billing system.

 

“My prediction is that in five years’ time, this is going to be the norm in some sectors and in 10 years it’s going to be more common than a five-day week,” says Joe, adding the potential is there to implement this concept in many sectors, including manufacturing. “I think there is an opportunity here for proactive leaders and strong organizations. Now is the time to really set yourself apart from the competition.”

 

 

Pros of a four-day work week

  • Productivity may increase
  • Workers can take care of medical and other appointments on their days off
  • Recruitment and retention may be easier by offering flexible work hours
  • Reduced stress and a better life-work balance, allowing employees more time for other activities and hobbies
  • Commuting less by employees could have environmental benefits

 

Cons of a four-day work week

  • For hourly paid jobs, employers should check if they will need to pay overtime if staff work 10 hours a day
  • If may be difficult to find daycare open for a 10-hour day to meet childcare needs
  • Working longer days or trying to complete tasks in a shorter timeframe could have health impacts
  • This may not work for all industries, such as farming, customer service and restaurants
  • Ensuring customer and client coverage can require scheduling employees over different workdays

 

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Quiet quitting, thanks to viral posts on social media, has become a term very familiar in workplaces worldwide.

 

It describes the phenomenon of employees who no longer go above and beyond by doing only what is expected in effort to maintain jobs that may no longer interest or inspire them.

 

This disengagement from work has grown exponentially since the pandemic. In fact, the 2022 State of the Global Workplace report from Gallup shows only 21% of employees are engaged at work.

 

“We’ve come through such a crisis over the last couple of years. To some extent, I think we’re over it now, but it has forced people to make different decisions about work, especially if they were burnt out already,” says Frank Newman, CEO of Newman Human Resources Consulting, who will explore quiet quitting at a Cambridge Chamber of Commerce webinar Dec. 1 entitled Is Your Team Quietly Quitting?

 

He will not only touch on some of the top reasons why employees quietly quit as well as the warning signs but provide insight on how employers can alter their work environment so they can not only attract but, more importantly, retain employees.

 

“You want to make sure you create the best work environment as possible,” says Frank, acknowledging the existence of an “employees’ market” due to labour shortages.  “That really means taking a very critical look at your work environment. Do you know what people need? Is it benefits? Is it better management? This is the ideal time to do an employee survey or workplace assessment to provide you with some sort of tool you can use to get a fix in terms of what are you going to fix first.”

 

He says this process may not prove to be a comfortable experience for some workplaces, however, insists this information can go a long way in assisting an organization set benchmarks regarding branding, image or even compensation.

 

“There are so many changes happening right now and if you don’t understand where you’re going or where you’re at, it’s pretty hard to make any progress,” says Frank.

 

He also recommends employers conduct exit interviews, formally or informally, to get a sense of why an employee has decided to leave.

 

“Make sure you understand what people are feeling. Also, spend some time with your newest employees and ask them what attracted them to your organization.”

 

Frank says in the age of social media, it’s important to encourage people who leave to remain an ambassador for the organization adding that bad reviews tend to get more traction than good ones.

 

“Organizations need to think about that as they manage those who are quietly quitting and those who suddenly walk out the door,” he says. “I always encourage my clients to search various job boards to see what’s being said about them.”

 

Frank admits it’s a tough time to be a manager right now, noting that employees have become much more critical on how their companies are managed than they were in the past.

 

“People looking for work have so many options out there now, and if you’re a hiring manager, it’s putting more pressure on management to get work done with less resources,” he says, noting the difficulty this causes employees who are now required to pick up the slack due to staffing shortages.

 

However, Frank says he’s optimistic as the economy continues to readjust following the pandemic there will be less quiet quitting.

 

“As companies get smarter in managing their businesses and people, I think you’ll see less of that," he says.

 

Work Trends Facts:

  • Burnout is a big risk in the workplace, especially amongst younger Gen Z professionals aged in their 20s, research shows. A survey of 30,000 workers by Microsoft showed 54% of Gen Z workers are considering quitting their job.
  • In its 2021 Global Risks Report, the World Economic Forum ranks “youth disillusionment” as eighth of 10 immediate risks. Findings include deteriorating mental health since the start of the pandemic, leaving 80% of young people worldwide vulnerable to depression, anxiety, and disappointment.
  • Workforce data from organizations including McKinsey & Company suggests 40% of the global workforce are looking to quit their jobs in the next three to six months.

Source: World Economic Forum website

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The word ‘diversity’ has become commonplace in most workplaces.

 

But according to a local expert in the field, the definition of that concept may be difficult and even confusing to pin down.

 

“Diversity is like the big buzz word right now and it’s a big topic that’s on everyone’s mindset,” says Dr. Nada Basir, Assistant Professor at the Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business at Waterloo University. “Companies are putting money into it because we all know that it’s important. But business leaders, when they think about diversity, tend to think of it on the surface level.”

 

As a result, she says the deep level of diversity, not just the observable points relating to gender, race, and nationality, often get overlooked.

 

“While we understand diversity is about differences, we sometimes narrowly focus on one type, and I think that’s where there is confusion and that’s where we need to think a little bit more outside the box.”

 

Dr. Basir will delve into this subject even deeper at our Women Leadership Collective Series event entitled: ‘Collaboration Between Men and Women to Empower Each Other, Inspire Each Other, and Lead Together’. During this in-person event Oct. 21 at Langdon Hall, she will explore what kind of diversity matters when it comes to producing benefits in the workplace.

 

“But I don’t want to make a case as to why diversity is important because we already know it’s important,” she says, noting introducing diversity in the workplace is not just about hiring or collaborating with diverse people. “It’s about the context that diversity is in and how do we make sure the teams or companies we are building are harnessing that diversity. What does it mean to have people come to the table and feel engaged and welcomed, and how do we tap into their identity-related knowledge?”

 

Dr. Basir says many companies may have a 50/50 split between male and female employees and feel they are doing well when it comes to promoting diversity, but this is not always the case.

 

“Who is making the decisions in that company? Who are in the leadership roles?” she says, explaining research surrounding motherhood show that women tend to leave the workforce more than men because they may not feel supported enough when it comes to such things as childcare or fertility issues. “We can have a diverse workplace but if the environment does not cater to it and leverage it, then what’s the point?”

 

When it comes to creating a diverse and collaborative workforce in a post-COVID-19 environment, Dr. Basir says companies have learned about the importance of being more agile.

 

“The world is complex and complicated, and things change very quickly in business since customers and stakeholders are involved in everything that’s happened and we have to keep them engaged, and it can be really costly if we don’t pay to attention to diversity,” she says.

 

Dr. Basir says relying on different perspectives and lived experiences can help the decision-making process at any company and hopes to convey that to participants at the Oct. 21 event.

 

“I hope it’s a workshop of reflection in terms of what people thought diversity was and why it’s important and maybe when they leave, they’ll have a different perspective on what diversity should look like,” she says, referring to the research she will also introduce to build a business case for diversity. “I want to talk about what do we know about diversity in terms of ROI (Return on Investment).”

 

To find out more, visit our Events Calendar.

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While the phrase ‘quiet quitting’ has recently entered the vernacular of many business organizations thanks in part to recent social media posts, the concept itself is not exactly new.

 

“We’ve been researching this issue for a long time with respect to motivation and performance,” says Dr. Simon Taggar, Professor of Management in the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University, noting previous generations used expressions like ‘deadwood’ or ‘retiring on the job’ to describe the phenomenon of employees who’ve given up the notion of going above and beyond in the workplace and only do what is expected of them.

 

Dr. Taggar says the concept, which can mistakenly evoke images of an employee ‘slacking’ at work, really centres more on the notions of engagement and disengagement, and how committed they are to their job, using the bare minimum approach which doesn’t lead to termination.

 

“I think increasingly people are becoming disengaged. We’ve always had an increasing trend in disengagement,” he says, referring to a Gallup poll conducted in 2013 which indicated that only 13% of employees worldwide were actually engaged in their jobs.

 

In North America, that number was 30% compared to 24% in other countries like South Korea, Australia, and Japan. “The people that are disengaged are now getting a whole bunch of attention.”

 

While COVID-19 sparked a major economic movement in terms of job shifts and losses, Dr. Taggar says many ‘quiet quitters’ continue to stay put in their jobs – unless something they deem is better comes along - due to a sense of continuous commitment to their work. He says unlike those with a passionate commitment to do the best job they can, or even those who feel an obligation to stay, ‘quiet quitters’ approach their jobs using a more transactional rationale.

 

“They look at as ‘I’m here because I have to be here’,” says Dr. Taggar, noting financial and personal circumstances are mitigating factors in their decision. “It’s almost like being in jail.”

 

However, he says in some circumstances, having ‘quiet quitters’ on the payroll does not make much of a difference.

 

“There are some jobs out there that really don’t need a huge amount of motivation,” says Dr. Taggar. “The design of the job itself is the control mechanism.”

 

However, he says increasingly many jobs in North America now require employees to be more motivated as they navigate strategies on their own.

 

“Our competitive advantage in Canada is having highly educated and motivated employees having complex jobs. That’s the source of our competitive advantage,” says Dr. Taggar, noting there are many signs pertaining to those who are ‘quietly quitting’. “As human beings, we’re very good at figuring out to the degree someone is motivated or highly engaged in the workplace.”

 

Signs that someone may be ‘quietly quitting’ include not assisting colleagues, not being prepared at meetings, absenteeism, not going above and beyond when it comes to serving customers or staying away from company social events.

 

“A positive workplace climate is created by people who are passionate and want to be there and love their jobs,” says Dr. Taggar.

 

He says communication is key when it comes to dealing with potential ‘quiet quitters’.

“No one ever enters an organization they want to be in thinking I’m going just going to be continuously committed,” says Dr. Taggar. “Humans aren’t made that way. We want to be passionate. We want to spend our lives doing something valuable that makes us feel good.”

 

He says it all boils down to the expectations an employee has when they join an organization, referring to such things as promises of a better work/life balance.

 

“When people’s expectations are not met, it’s called a breach of their psychological contract,” says Dr. Taggar, adding this breach can quickly alter someone’s passion for the job. “You’ve got to maintain people’s expectations because when you lose that trust, it’s harder to gain that trust back.”

 

As well, he says asking for feedback is imperative to foster a workplace culture that will keep employees engaged, noting that allowing a work culture to grow organically can create issues and misunderstandings.

 

“If you invest in them and make them feel like you care and are developing them, they will be committed to you,” says Dr. Jagger. “You’ve got to have that constant communication and constant culture building so people can make sense on what’s happening around them.”

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The past two and half years has seen virtually every industry and company re-evaluate how they conduct business.

 

Readjusting to a post-pandemic world is at the forefront in many of their plans and strategies as they look towards operating in a different world compared to the one we had at the start of 2020.

 

But despite adjusting their operations in substantial ways, many may be using the same insurance coverage they adopted prior to the pandemic, not realizing that COVID-19 could lead to new risks and exposures for them.

 

We reached out to insurance experts Amanda Scheerer at Josslin Insurance and Shelley Sutton at Dumfries Mutual Insurance Company to share their thoughts on what businesses can do to ensure they are properly prepared.

 

 

Q. How has the pandemic changed the approach SMEs are taking when it comes to insurance coverage?

 

Amanda: Post-pandemic inflation has had a huge impact on valuation of buildings and equipment. Before the pandemic, it was common to adjust rebuild, or replacement cost every couple of years, but with current inflation rates we recommend that business owners review the rebuild or replacement costs listed on their policies at each renewal.

 

In addition to inflation, we find rebuild time after a major loss is longer. We’re seeing a few our clients increasing their indemnity period for business interruption from 12 months to 18 months. This accommodates for the extended building periods and will allow business to survive during the rebuild and keep key people from leaving for another workplace.

 

Shelley: It really depends on the type of business. Contractors, for example, are busier than ever, selling work sometimes a year out. If they have stock, they are insuring it at replacement cost to protect themselves from the unpredictability of the market in the event of a loss.

 

SMEs have to protect their assets. Insuring to limits helps to do so and the need for business interruption coverage for insured perils should be considered and weighed out. Limits are higher due to building material increases (inflation) and shortages of both materials and labour. Overall, SMEs are being more careful about understanding the coverage they have and the premiums they are paying.

 

 

Q. Does having a portion or all of staff working remotely require businesses to consider adjustments in their insurance coverage?

 

Amanda: If you have people working remotely as a business owner, you should ensure that company-owned assets like computers and other work-from-home equipment is covered under your insurance with an off-premises coverage extension. That extension was normal in certain industries even before 2020, but with so much company equipment now in people’s homes, it’s more important than ever to make sure your Business Insurance Liability policy has it now.

 

Finally, if your employees are meeting clients in their own homes, you may want to extend your liability coverage as their personal insurance will not cover them in the event a visitor is injured.

 

Shelley: With staff working from home comes more need for cyber security and cyber coverage if the storage of stock and equipment has changed you may need to update your agent or broker to ensure you are covered at other locations (office equipment, stock etc.). Companies need to insure equipment for off premises. If building(s) are unoccupied coverages could be void.  Businesses should check with their insurer.

 

 

Q. What are some new trends when it comes to insurance coverage that businesses may not be aware of?

 

Amanda: As mentioned before, many of our clients are extending the indemnity period on their business interruption coverage to account for the longer rebuild times.

 

Because of cybersecurity concerns, many businesses are now installing multi-factor authentication on any devices that connect to their systems. They are also ensuring that any personal devices their employees use for work (bring-your-own-devices) have sufficient security on them, so they don’t infect the business systems.

 

Finally, more businesses are using contractors to deliver their products and they may not be aware that they need non-owned auto coverage. If a restaurant owner employed an independent delivery driver with his own auto coverage and that driver is in an accident while working, the restaurant would also be named in the claim. Having a non-owned auto extension on the business’ commercial general liability policy with protect the owner in this situation.

 

 

Shelley: As large companies double down on their efforts to protect themselves and their clients, cyber criminals are targeting smaller businesses that do not have the resources to protect themselves. Comprehensive cyber coverage for ransomware, malware, data breaches, phishing attacks, remote desktop intrusion and more is critical for today’s business whether you are an online retailer or a contractor – protecting your own information and the information of your clients is your responsibility.

 

 

Q. What are some of the common concerns or questions you’ve been receiving from businesses regarding their insurance coverage?

 

Amanda: The biggest concern we’ve been hearing from our clients is about the cost of rebuilding. It’s a good idea to ensure that the property and equipment values on your insurance are current. Many policies include a co-insurance clause, which limits the amount paid on a partial claim. If you’re building or contents are underinsured, you may be responsible for any shortfall.

 

Shelley: Saving money is high on their radar as well as having adequate limits considering rising building costs.

 

 

Q. What advice would you offer business owners when it comes to insurance coverage during the pandemic?

 

Amanda: If your people are working from home and your building is partially or totally vacant, please notify your insurance provider as this could void some coverages you may have. The same goes for any building owners who rent to tenants. Many are experiencing challenges in finding tenants, so please let your insurance provider know if you have vacant units to ensure you remain covered.

 

Shelley: We still advise clients to purchase as much liability coverage as they can afford. It is important to read your policy and understand exclusions when day-to-day operations change if you are unsure, call your broker or agent.

 

To learn more, visit Dumfries Mutual Insurance Company or Josslin Insurance.

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