The world of work has changed dramatically in recent years. The days of aspiring to the corner office with a company car, working 9-5 with a job for life are ancient history. Unionized jobs are becoming scarce, while pensions are as rare as an office typing pool. Today’s work environments can be cramped, noisy, and demanding with workers virtually tethered to their desk via phone or laptop, well into their evenings and on weekends – sometimes even on vacations.
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But there may be hope on the horizon. Virgin founder and self-made billionaire, Richard Branson, wrote recently that he sees a three and four day weekends, with no drop in pay, arriving in the near future;that and pilot-less planes. Whether or not he’s right about either prediction remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt the way we work is changing significantly.
One thing that won’t change is employees wanting to work for good companies that take care of their staff. Whether through benefits, retirement plans, Employee Assistance programs, or daily perks like gym access, free snacks, and the ability to work remotely, employees will gravitate to companies that respect and accommodate them, while recognizing that they have a life beyond their jobs.
Here are five of Canada’s best employers; ones that are working hard to meet the expectations of today’s employees. All have won awards in recent years acknowledging them as among the best organizations at which to ply one’s trade, and all have demonstrated a commitment to taking care of.
Royal Bank of Canada (RBC)
With $11.5 billion in profit in 2017, RBC obviously knows a little bit about the value of things. But it also knows not everyone values the same things equally. For employees that cherish time off, new RBC workers start with a fairly standard three weeks of vacation – but they can ‘purchase’ an additional 20 days a year to spend time with friends and family, traveling, or even trying to grow a family: the bank offers up to $6,000 to offset the costs of fertility treatments.
RBC also values its employee’s well being by providing incentives to adopt healthy lifestyle. It rewards healthy behaviour by adding credits to employees’ personal‘Wellness Account’ that can be used for well-being-related expenses like gym memberships, weight-loss programs or yoga retreats.
RBC’s innovative “under-time” program recognizes that not all periods of the year equally busy, so employees can leave early when work volumes are low.
WE (WE Charity and ME to WE social enterprise)
Notoriously cash-strapped non-profit organizations don’t always provide the best work environments, but WE knows that its people are the charity/social enterprise’s most valuable asset, so it takes good care of them.WE has twice (2013 and 2016) landed on Waterstone’s list of Canada’s Most Admired Corporate Cultures, and was cited three times as one of Canada’s Top Employers For Young People.
Within its new state-of-the-art headquarters in downtown Toronto, WE employees get free access to perks like a fully-stocked gym (weights, elliptical, treadmills), quiet rooms for yoga or meditation, and a barista-staffed coffee shop.Staff can also travel, with all on-the-ground costs covered by the social enterprise ME to WE, to visit WE projects in India, Kenya, or Ecuador. They can rub elbows with celebrities like Selena Gomez or Magic Johnson at WE Day events, and if all that seems to stressful, they can take advantage of free, on-site physiotherapy at the office.
In addition to the in-office gym, all full-time staff also get free gym memberships (at Goodlife, Energie Cardio or 24-Hour Fitness, depending on where they work). Plus, there’s birthdays off and ‘free’ vacation days during the organization’s annual holiday shut, which don’t count against annual vacation time. Pretty good perks to support those trying to better the world.
Government of Yukon
With an average temperature of -15 C in January, and 19 hours of darkness each day, Canada’s north isn’t for everyone. But hearty Canadians who have a hankering for a real winter should consider applying with the Yukon government, which was named one of Canada’s Top Family-Friendly Employers (2018) and Top Employers for Canadians Over 40 (2019).
New parents in particular will love the Government of Yukon’s generous maternity/parental leave. New moms can get top-up payments up to 93% of their salary, for up to 32 weeks;and dads get the same top-up level, to a maximum of 17 weeks. Throw in a defined benefit pension with extended health and dental plans, and living at 60.7 N longitude starts to sound pretty good.
For those who need to escape during the harsh winter, employees start with 4 weeks of paid vacation, scaling up to 8 weeks over a career, with a generous annual travel allowance that lets them head south for a Vitamin D top-up. Staff also gets 6 personal days a year, presumably to go polar bear viewing, or bask in the midnight sun of summer.
Ford of Canada
Not only does Ford have Canada’s best-selling vehicle (the F-150 pick-up truck) year after year, it also consistently ranks as one of Canada’s top places to work: it’s been ranked as one of Canada’s Top 100 employers three years in a row.
Ford of Canada’s unionized employees get a full pension, with new parents being eligible for maternity and parental leave top-up payments, and access to an on-site daycare at its head office once they return to work.
Workers get two paid days off each year to volunteer in their community and they can help choose which charities the company will support each year.
For workers who want to make education their ‘side-hustle’, Ford of Canada has their back, offering a whopping $6,000 per year to help offset tuition or training costs, and Ford provides an additional $1,300 per child for employees’ college/university bound kids.
Costco is a retail giant that works against the perception that big retailers are less than optimal places to work. It’s not only a great place to load up on bulk items, but it consistently lands on Forbes’ list as one of Canada’s Top 100 Employers (it ranked #40 in 2018).
The company allows workers take time off to attend college or university while still increasing their seniority and salary steps, working on a part-time basis. Costco offers its university grads a program to expose them to upper management while fast-tracking them into management roles. And it gives workers’ kids access to college and university scholarships of up to $2,500 per year.
Costco’s health and dental plans offer full coverage for prescription drugs, vision care, hearing aids, and even orthodontics, with the company paying 100% of premiums. Employees get a pension plan, short and long-term disability coverage, life insurance and access to an Employee Assistance Program.
And on top of all those perks, workers can pick up a 10-pound wheel of cheese after their shift – but they have to pay for that themselves.