Making the ‘new normal’ more normal for Canadian professionals

Oct 21 2020, 11:44 am

This piece was written by Will Buckley, Canada Country Manager at Xero.

The year 2020 will forever be known — among other things — as the year work changed.

Our personal and professional lives have become intertwined and, while this has certainly raised a fair number of challenges for productivity and mental wellness, it’s also made it clear that companies and employers have an even larger obligation to support their teams and their ability to find balance in this new normal.

This summer, Xero conducted an independent national survey of 1,000 Canadian professionals to learn more about this shift, including how we can be better leaders to our team members, and what professionals value most in their workplaces. The verdict? Reduced commute time, benefits and vacation policies, and opportunities for professional growth were among the highest-rated and most attractive offerings that an employer could provide, today.

But don’t take it from me; Here’s what a few of the Humans of Xero had to say on these workplace offerings and how they’ve adapted to work throughout the pandemic.

My new normal is flexible: Gurrinder Kharbanda, Software Development Manager

Gurrinder Kharbanda, Software Development Manager/Xero

Commuting and working used to be inseparable. For me, that meant an hour-long journey (on a good day) taking public transit from the suburbs of Brampton to our office in downtown Toronto. But now that I’m working remotely full-time, today’s commute looks very different and much more flexible. Just a few steps gets me from my bed to my home office, giving me several hours back in my day that would otherwise be spent in transit.

Having transferred teams just as Canada went into lockdown, I had to navigate getting to know and managing a small team of engineers from the comfort of my own home. But despite the jarring transition to remote work, it became clear that Xero’s existing technology infrastructure would allow us to continue working effectively as a team. Workplace tools like Google Meet and Slack made it possible for me to show up at the virtual office with this new team, with the added bonus of having the time to revel in life outside of work much more. I’ve started more home renovations in the last few months than I’ve ever done in the last six years. I’ve been able to get early morning workouts in, with plenty of time left to get set up for the workday ahead. And to my wife’s delight, I now spend more time helping out in the kitchen.

Although many people are still working from home, each home environment differs. Knowing this, Xero increased the amount that employees could expense to upgrade their home offices to $1,000, keeping in mind that the transition to working from home has not necessarily been easy for everyone. Being supported like this has not only helped me continue to be an effective employee but, as a manager, to be in the proper headspace to provide leadership support to my team and lead by example. It’s not a case of trying to survive while working remotely; we want to be thriving too.

My new normal is opportunity: Sam Higgins, Account Manager

Sam Higgins, Account Manager/Xero

Like many working professionals around the world this year, I had to quickly adjust to a new routine when my work and personal lives came together under one roof. At first, I was hesitant to work anywhere that wasn’t my home or a local coffee shop. As the months wore on, I realized I had the opportunity and an employer that would encourage me to do just that. And so, I started working from anywhere (WFA) and, for the first time, really came to appreciate the value I placed in an employer that invests in its employees through benefits and vacation policies.

My workday looks very different now than it used to. My mornings are less frantic. I can wake up early, take my dog out for a walk, explore a short trail, and still have time to prepare for my morning meetings. During the day, I can take breaks periodically, or even go for short runs, to help sustain my energy, productivity, and focus. And, by WFA, I had the opportunity to discover my new favourite home office: the beaches in Tofino.

At the start of the pandemic, Xero doubled the number of wellness days its employees were entitled to, giving us upwards of ten days to reinvest in our mental and physical health. Additionally, all employees were granted an extra wellness day in honour of World Mental Health Day in October. For employees working on the West Coast, Xero gave each of us a $200 Amazon gift card to put towards purchasing an air purifier, to make working amidst the devastating wildfire smoke a little bit easier. The company also recently revisited its Parental Support policy to provide eligible employees with 26 weeks of paid leave as they grow their families. To me, these gestures have demonstrated the company’s genuine care and concern for our mental health and well-being, especially during this time, and truly showcased the opportunity I have, in my new normal.

My new normal is fluid: Randa Mohsen, Software Developer

Randa Mohsen, Software Developer/Xero

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to opportunities and, specifically, jobs that allow for constant learning, development, and mentorship. When the pandemic hit, this was one of the places I felt the impact first. I lost the luxury of being able to turn to my seatmate if I needed help. I started to experience imposter syndrome. And, I grew hyper-aware of the valuable time I thought I was taking away from my colleagues by messaging them with questions.

Today, every other Monday is spent dedicated to professional learning. This means having an entire day set aside for employees to lean on one another and broaden their experience in an area or skill set. With top down buy-in and an understanding that, for the day, work deliverables would take a back seat, it’s been transformative for my personal growth.

Mentorship is a two-way street. While more senior employees bring wisdom and a wealth of experience to those that are just joining the team, entry-level employees offer fresh new perspectives and ideas that challenge established processes and push us to think outside of the box. Meanwhile, being a mentor taught me to accept that there would be things I wouldn’t have the answers to — and that was OK. It encouraged me to keep expanding my knowledge, not only so I could provide my mentees with the guidance that they expected from me, but to also lead by example by taking control of my own personal and professional growth. Because of this autonomy and freedom to pursue knowledge, my development has remained fluid. Continuous learning at Xero was and continues to be a no-brainer to me. Pandemic or not.

About Xero

Xero is a beautiful, easy-to-use global cloud-based accounting platform for small businesses and their advisors. The company has two million subscribers in more than 180 countries. Xero seamlessly integrates with more than 800 apps. It was ranked No. 1 by Forbes as the World’s Most Innovative Growth Company for two years running, was included in the 2020 Bloomberg Gender-Equality Index for their ongoing emphasis on fostering workplace diversity, and recently established Toronto as their North American technology and product hub. Learn more about open positions in Xero’s Toronto office here.

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