Funny thing, people think that Millennials are going to be the major drivers of change in the workplace. And while those 20-somethings coming up the ranks are going to shake things up, there are bigger changes afoot from the people already established in the workforce. And guess what? Canadians are among the people who really want to change how the world of work works. Which begs the question: Are you ready for it?

It’s a brave new world out there

While the economy is still adjusting to the post–2008 realities, technology and the social changes since 2008 are driving some even more fundamental changes to how people view work, expect to work, and want to work. A recent study commissioned by Rogers Communications came away with four big findings:

  1. Canadians are willing to sacrifice salary and vacation days to work from anywhere. One-third of Canadians (33%) say they would sacrifice something (including salary, vacation days and employee benefits) to work remotely and over half (59%) of Canadians agree in the future, flexible work hours and the ability to work from anywhere will be top priorities in their choice of employer
  2. Canadians desire access to the latest tech but don’t want to lose face-to-face interactions. Job satisfaction could increase for almost half (47%) of Canadians if employers provided the latest technology tools and services; baby boomers are just as likely as their Gen Y counterparts to attribute access to the latest technology as being important (70% and 66%, respectively); and almost eight in ten (76%) of Canadians agree collaborative workplaces make them more productive
  3. Canadians are willing to erase personal and professional lines. A quarter of Canadian smartphone users (23%) who carry two smartphones do so because their employer doesn’t allow them to connect their device to the company server, and over half of Canadians (54%) who use their smartphone for personal and professional purposes are comfortable with employer-enforcing security policies
  4. Laptops and tablets are future devices of choice for Canadian workers over desktop PCs. Today, Canadians spend the majority of their workday using traditional workplace devices such as desktop computers (45%) and landlines (10%); in the future, Canadians would prefer to use laptops (40%), tablets (15%), and smartphones (10%) as  primary work devices.

From Techvibes: Canadians Want to Redefine the Workplace

What do these findings mean for you? Flexibility and technology are going to be key factors to attracting and keeping the best and brightest people. You might be based in Vancouver or Calgary, but there are talented people in the Maritimes who are great at what they do—and they don’t want to move for any price. If you only hire local, you’re missing out on a much wider pool of talent. Are you ready to let people use the devices and technology they like to use not the technology and devices you’re used to using? This isn’t a Mac versus PC or desktop versus laptop or tablet versus everything debate, this is are you willing to let people use the tools they are most productive with and find the ways to make everything work together? Are you willing to think about having some of your best people work from not only home, but a “home” far away from you?

How to learn and adapt

The recent book Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (the people behind Basecamp) regales how remote work is the next big thing, how if you don’t embrace remote workers, you’re going to lose in the new economy. The reality is that it isn’t remote work at all, it’s a willingness to embrace the new working world and the technologies that power it that matter most.

Workers today accept the fact that they probably won’t work at the same company for 20 or 30 years and then retire with a gold watch and a nice pension. That’s fine, people adapt. Companies, however, have been slower to adapt. Now’s the time to make a change. Now is the time to prepare for the new world of work and the workers who embrace it.

Embracing remote workers is a hard first step for many companies. For remote workers to be successful in a company, a lot of work has to go into making it work. And having just one or two remote workers; that’s a remote worker trial destined to fail. So make it easy on yourself, start with technology. Give new hires more flexibility over the technology they are given to do their job. Make 2014 your year to try new cloud apps. Apps where it doesn’t matter if you’re using a tablet or laptop or smartphone, the apps just work (examples are Trello, Quip, Dropbox, Evernote, and Google Drive). Maybe let more people use their tablets at work. Or let a few Macs into the office. The important fact is that most of today’s workers have used technology for not just their entire working lives, but their entire lives. After a few years you start to have preferred ways of working with tech. Don’t force people to change how they are most productive just because five years ago IT thought one technology was the way to go. Break free. Let people just work.

Technology first, remote later

This might be bucking the trend, but after years watching people try (and succeed and fail) at adapting to the new world of work, it’s trying to be more flexible about technology that is probably easiest to implement. Remote work is great, but it can be hard to bring into an established company and team. The important thing, the bit that should stick with you, is that big changes in the workforce are coming. Now is the time to get comfortable with the changes, learn how to adapt, and start looking for the people who can help you make it happen.

Comments (2)

j r

Dec 09, 2013 at 9:40 AM

nice work on the future, greg!
i’ve been working remote for 30 years both in asia , paris and london
adjusting to time zones to fit my work and vice versa

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Greg Nichvalodoff

Dec 11, 2013 at 8:15 PM

Yes, I have only become immersed in this virtual technology space during the past year or two. You are a veteran on the subject. Thank you for your comment, JR.

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