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As employees return to the office, the much-hyped hybrid model faces acid test: does it work? – CBC News

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As former office dwellers make a return to their workplaces, employers and workers are having to navigate exactly what the new normal of work is going to look like.

The subject of heading back to the office after years of working from home is an especially thorny one. In a recent poll by the Angus Reid Institute conducted in partnership with CBC News, when asked what they would do if their employer mandated them back to the office full time, more than half of those surveyed said they would probably start looking for somewhere else to work.

Between March 1 and 4 of this year, the polling firm asked 2,550 Canadian adults what they would do if given such an ultimatum. (A probability sample of this size would carry a margin of error of +/- 2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.)

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A third (33 per cent) said they would begrudgingly do it, but start looking for another job. Almost a quarter (23 per cent) said they would quit on the spot. Twenty-nine per cent said they would be fine with it. The rest weren’t sure.

Flexibility will be key

Professor Linda Duxbury, who teaches at the Sprott School of Business at Carleton University in Ottawa, says the answer to the question of what a normal working arrangement will look like from now on is far from clear. 

“I’d like to be able to give you one answer … but it’s much more nuanced than that,” she said.

Duxbury has been researching remote work during the pandemic, and after poring over data from 26,000 Canadian workers, she said a few broad trends can be gleaned from the data. Roughly one quarter of workers, she said, want to go back to the office full time, while about the same proportion would rather never set foot in the office if they don’t have to.

A complex split like that reinforces why flexibility is the name of the game for office work from now on. Outside of a few industries, the days of mandating 40 hours a week worth of face time in the office are over.

A little under half of Canadian workers are theoretically able to do all or part of their job from home, Duxbury said, but that’s not to suggest all of them want to all the time, or produce their best work when they do. Smart organizations, she said, will be flexible and based on individuals’ needs.

“You’ve got to … actually start talking to your people [and] stop pretending … that there is some magical plan you can implement it and it’ll be a miracle,” she said.

“People are not willing to sacrifice their soul any more for their organization and the privilege of working for you,” she said, citing an ongoing war for talent that has given workers an edge they didn’t use to have.

It’s why her advice to employers is blunt.

“If you get it wrong, you might not have a business two or three years from now even to deal with.”

Recruiter Hannah Gold with staffing firm TDS Personnel says competition for workers is fierce, and companies that are flexible will fare best. (Laura MacNaughton/CBC)

Hannah Gold, a recruitment consultant with staffing firm TDS Personnel, agrees that flexibility is the name of the game, for both workers and the people looking to hire them.

Most of her firm’s clients have moved to some version of the hybrid working model, where new hires are coming in on the expectation and agreement that some work will happen in office, while other work will not. While a few employers are insisting on full-time, in-office work, it’s becoming a challenge.

“The ones that are mandating it are going to have a more challenging time filling that position,” she said, because the job market right now is very much “what we would call a candidate’s market.”

Work environment expectations are becoming so paramount, they are almost more important than things like compensation in some cases, she said.

“Not everybody wants that,” she said, referring to coming back into the office, full time.

“Some people do, but not everyone wants to go back, commute into the office every single day … like they used to.”

Ashira Gobrin, chief people and culture officer at Wave, says the new normal for work at the company will be to allow the company’s 350 workers to do their jobs wherever they do their best work: at home or in the office. (Tina MacKenzie/CBC)

Wave Financial is among those employers for whom flexibility is the name of the game. With about 350 employees across Canada and the U.S., the financial technology company has adopted a hybrid approach, and says it’s working well.

“We’ve really learned some things through the pandemic,” said Ashira Gobrin, Wave’s chief people and culture officer.

“One is that we actually can work very efficiently remotely, and that people are happy in their homes getting stuff done,” she said, while others benefit from working together in person for certain tasks.

At Wave, the office is “meant to be a place that gives something to you that you don’t have at home,” she said, but “everybody’s got the ability to pick what works for them and then also what works for their teams.”

Satisfied workers

On the streets of Toronto on Monday morning, most commuters making their way into the office who spoke to CBC News were happy to be back, but almost none of them expected they would be doing it quite the way they used to.

Jake Cruikshank said his employer asks all employees to be in the office at least two days a week, but he’s choosing to come in for four.

“It’s just better for me, I just get stuff done,” he said. 

“Some people can work remotely full time, but I’m just not one of those people.”

Hari Balasingham, who works in finance, jokes that his dog may be missing him being at home all day, but he doesn’t.

“I prefer to be in the office, to be honest. You get more done there.”

WATCH | See what commuters told CBC News about heading back to the office: 

Hybrid work the norm as office workers head back

19 hours ago

Duration 0:55

On the streets of downtown Toronto on Monday morning, a number of workers spoke to CBC on their way into the office. While their circumstances differ, on the whole they were pleased to be back, and expecting a mix of office life and working from home to be their norm from now on. 0:55

The Royal Bank of Canada has implemented a hybrid approach, and Mike Elsey, who works for the bank, said that’s fine with him.

“It’s good to be back,” he said.

“I mean, it’s nice to have the flexibility.”

Kristen Howcroft, a project co-ordinator with CIBC, will be splitting her work week between home and the office. She said she was looking forward to sharing space with colleagues again, because she misses the interactions with coworkers.

“It’ll be exciting and I think it’ll bring good morale back to everyone.”

On the whole, workers who spoke to CBC News were fine with the idea of coming back to the office in some capacity, but Duxbury said that doesn’t mean employers should assume they can mandate things to be how they used to.

She said in this job market, smart companies need to take the threat of losing a quarter of their workforce because of a refusal to adapt seriously.

“Even if they don’t leave, do you think it’s a good thing to have one in five of your people staying with you for golden handcuffs and hating you? Absolutely not,” she said.

“You want people who are staying because they like you and they’re engaged in the work and what you do. Good employers are going to come out of this smelling like roses.”

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Federal Reserve Set to Shrink Rate Hikes Again as Inflation Slows – Bloomberg Markets and Finance

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It's a key week for the stock market. If you're not nervous, you should be, this global strategist warns. – MarketWatch

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Investors have got the jitters as a big week unfolds — several central bank meetings including the Fed, earnings from Apple and Amazon.com, and jobs data. Yikes.

Read: The Fed and the stock market are set for a showdown this week. What’s at stake.

Any investor out there who isn’t nervous, perhaps should recheck his gut, says our call of the day, from Standard Chartered’s global head of research, Eric Robertsen.

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“We do not expect an extreme economic hard landing, but we think the proverbial Goldilocks scenario is too optimistic,” Robertsen told clients in a Sunday note, adding that they are “now turning cautious on risky assets.”

Robertsen explains the two sides of an important market debate right now — the just-right Goldilocks crowd and the “recessionist” bears.

The former is growing confident with their view that inflation and central bank tightening is nearing a peak and any recession will be “shallow and short-lived,” he explains. The reduction of that “central-bank driven left-side tail risk” matters more to markets than any slowdown, that side also says.

“A central bank pause, declining inflation, and attractive yields and valuations will prompt investors to reduce their underweight exposure and increase their allocation to risky assets, the Goldilocks camp argues,” he said.

He says the varied year-to-date performance across asset classes reveals 2022’s laggards are 2023’s outperformers so far. “This suggests that short-covering may be a significant contributor to performance so far, rather than overwhelming faith in the Goldilocks economy.

“The outperforming sectors are distinctly pro-cyclical – which is surprising with recession themes all the rage,” he says, noting that “ominous message about the health of the labor market” from tech job cuts.

On the other side, the bears say investors are overstating a decline in volatility and understating economic risks, writes Robertsen, who is on board here, hence his caution on riskier assets. The so-called fear gauge, the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX
VIX,
+6.75%

didn’t register new highs last year when stocks tumbled, leading some to say it was a broken indicator.

“Real-time indicators are showing a loss of economic momentum, while others – such as the U.S. labor market – have yet to reflect growing economic headwinds,” he said. “Underlying the bear case is the view that we have yet to feel the full cumulative impact of the most aggressive monetary tightening cycle in decades.”

He says “volatility measures have fallen too far and the improvement in risky assets is due for a pause.” The catalyst for this pause could be any number of things: aggressive rate cuts priced into the U.S. money-market curve that will be unwound, a too-tight move from the European Central Bank or even an actual tightening from Bank of Japan, for example, said Robertsen.

Should the Fed disappoint markets this week

Risk assets may also struggle with the Fed’s message this week if it fails to reassure the rate-hiking cycle is complete, says Robertse,n who expects the central bank will push back on “aggressive easing priced into the money-market curve.”

Read: Wall Street’s ‘fear gauge’ flashes warning that stocks might be headed off a cliff

The markets

Stock futures
ES00,
-0.81%

YM00,
-0.47%

have trimmed losses, but all are down, led by those for the Nasdaq-100
NQ00,
-1.15%
.
Bond yields
TMUBMUSD10Y,
3.551%

TMUBMUSD02Y,
4.256%

creeping up and oil
CL.1,
-1.87%

pulling back. The China CSI
000300,
+0.47%

rose slightly as the market reopened after a week off. The Hang Seng
HSI,
-2.73%

slumped 2.7% as Alibaba fell (more in buzz) and Taiwan’s index
SET,
-0.00%

surged 3.7% as Taiwan Semi
2330,
+7.95%

soared.

For more market updates plus actionable trade ideas for stocks, options and crypto, subscribe to MarketDiem by Investor’s Business Daily. Also check out MarketWatch’s Live blog for up-to-the-minute markets updates.

The buzz

The A-listers of earnings are lining up this week, with not just Apple
AAPL,
+1.37%

and Amazon.com
AMZN,
+3.04%
,
but Alphabet’s Google
GOOGL,
+1.90%
,
Meta
META,
+3.01%
,
Starbucks
SBUX,
+0.24%
,
McDonald’s
MCD,
-0.82%
,
Caterpillar
CAT,
+0.92%

and Ford
F,
+2.71%

as well.

Read: Could Big Tech layoffs keep growing? Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google may give hints in biggest week of earnings.

Alibaba shares
BABA,
-1.82%

9988,
-7.08%

are tracking a slump in Hong Kong amid speculation the company will shift headquarters to Singapore. Alibaba dismissed the rumors. And shares of Baidu are bucking a weaker landscape for tech, with reports the China tech group is developing its own AI search engine.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will lead to lower oil and gas demand and a move to greener sources, says BP
BP,
+0.19%

BP,
+0.56%
.

The data calendar is quiet for Monday, but the week is busy with updates on the housing market, manufacturing, unit labor costs and nonfarm payrolls.

A 25-basis point hike is forecast from the Fed this week, while a 50-basis point cut is expected from the ECB and Bank of England, which could narrowing the differential between the two sides.

Financial News is launching its first Twenty Most Influential in Crypto, recognizing the top executives making waves in the crypto and blockchain industry. 

Best of the web

A short seller report has now wiped $72 billion in value from companies of the world’s number-eight billionaire.

Who gives the best retirement advice? Suze Orman and Dave Ramsey or economists?

Rio Tinto is looking for a lost radioactive capsule the size of a coin in Western Australia.

We are ‘greening’ ourselves to extinction, says this Dutch academic.

The tickers

These were the top-searched tickers on MarketWatch as of 6 a.m. Eastern:

Ticker

Security name

TSLA,
+11.00%
Tesla

GME,
+14.04%
GameStop

LCID,
+43.00%
Lucid Group I

APE,
+7.26%
AMC Entertainment Holdings preferred shares

BBBY,
+1.19%
Bed Bath & Beyond

AMC,
+4.36%
AMC Entertainment Holdings

NIO,
+4.44%
NIO

MULN,
+2.44%
Mullen Automotive

AAPL,
+1.37%
Apple

AMZN,
+3.04%
Amazon

Random reads

Ain’t no greased pole greasy enough for Philadelphia Eagles fans celebrating that NFC win over the San Francisco 49ers.

But lighting up the Empire State Building in Eagles green was a step too far, some New Yorkers were fuming.

Boris Johnson says Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to take him out as the war in Ukraine began.

Need to Know starts early and is updated until the opening bell, but sign up here to get it delivered once to your email box. The emailed version will be sent out at about 7:30 a.m. Eastern.

Listen to the Best New Ideas in Money podcast with MarketWatch reporter Charles Passy and economist Stephanie Kelton

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Why the golden age of flying is never coming back — and it might not be a bad thing – Yahoo News Canada

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Meal service on a 1955 Trans-Canada Airlines flight. Experts say most people associate the golden age of flying with the era when commercial aviation in Canada was regulated and airlines didn't have to cut costs to stay competitive. (Air Canada - image credit)

Meal service on a 1955 Trans-Canada Airlines flight. Experts say most people associate the golden age of flying with the era when commercial aviation in Canada was regulated and airlines didn’t have to cut costs to stay competitive. (Air Canada – image credit)

From pricey parking to pat downs at security and long lineups everywhere you turn, air travel these days can be unpleasant.

“I get on a plane now at least once a month and to me, it’s like riding on a bus in the sky. Herd me on, sit me down, get me off. They’ve taken away the lure of the travel,” said Susan Barnes, 75, of Halfmoon Bay, B.C., who has been a frequent flyer for more than half a century.

Barnes, who was a flight attendant in the 1960s and ’70s, says she remembers when flying was like a Mad Men cocktail party in the sky. She jetted around the globe pouring free champagne for passengers flying CP Air, a carrier that operated until 1986 when it was taken over by Pacific Western Airlines (PWA) and then, Canadian Airlines.

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Barnes said her job was to provide top notch treatment to every passenger, even those sitting in economy. That meant handing out hot towels before and after every meal. Breakfast, lunch and dinner were served on real china, with silverware and cloth napkins — then out came coffee, tea and a fruit basket.

Submitted by Susan BarnesSubmitted by Susan Barnes

Submitted by Susan Barnes

“We were treating these people as if they were in a first-class establishment. We just happened to be in the air,” Barnes said.

Barnes and other retired CP Air, Canadian and Air Canada flight attendants interviewed by the Cost of Living described flying back then as “a pleasure.”

It’s a far cry from the experience thousands of Canadians had with airlines this past holiday season. Staff shortages, weather issues and computer outages resulted in lost baggage, cancelled flights and stranded passengers who are now battling air carriers for compensation.

This, along with a summer of major travel disruptions due to COVID-19 labour shortages, has the federal government promising to overhaul Canada’s airline passenger bill of rights.

If you’ve been caught in that tangled web of travel chaos, you may be asking yourself what happened. Experts say it comes down to costs, and competition — and that we’re unlikely to ever return to that golden age of flying.

Keeping prices competitive meant airlines had to be more ruthless about the bottom line, said Fred Lazar, an associate professor of economics at York University.

“Here’s a fare, it gets you a seat from A to B. Anything else costs more.”

Carrier competition

What most Canadians remember as the golden age of flying was the era when commercial aviation was regulated, explained Lazar. It was a time when airlines didn’t have to cut costs to stay competitive, because the federal government didn’t allow them to compete with one another.

“So it was essentially the government saying this is where you can fly, when you can fly and these are the prices.”

Up until 1986, the two big players were private carrier CP Air and government-owned Air Canada (formerly Trans-Canada Airlines), said Lazar, and the government did not allow much overlap on routes.

In the absence of competition, experts say Canadian carriers were guaranteed to attract customers and make money, which meant they could afford to offer perks on their flights to passengers.

According to Julie LeBlond Parker, who started as a flight attendant for CP Air in 1968, airlines also invested in their staff. She received extensive training in “decorum” and “finesse” before taking to the sky.

“The service was based on old European service. It was a very high standard,” said LeBlond Parker, who now lives in South Surrey, B.C.

Domestic and international flight prices, 1959 vs. 2023

But the golden age of air travel was also out of reach for many Canadians. Fare schedules from collectors and the archives of the Canada Aviation and Space Museum reveal that throughout the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, flying was incredibly expensive.

In 1950, a return flight on Trans-Canada Airlines from Vancouver to Johannesburg, South Africa, cost over $21,000 when adjusted for inflation. Flying Toronto to Vancouver in 1962 on CP Air was roughly $1,900.

With prices like that, LeBlond Parker, said the regulars on her flights were business travellers, not vacationers. Leisure travellers were usually newlyweds, couples and families embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

“What was really amazing about it is that they all dressed up. They probably got a new outfit just to fly because it was special. It was a very special thing.”

City of Vancouver ArchivesCity of Vancouver Archives

City of Vancouver Archives

Goodbye blankets, hello bargains

Barry Prentice, the director of the Transport Institute at the University of Manitoba, said Canadians saw a “tremendous drop” in airfares south of the border when the U.S. deregulated its airlines in 1978.

“They went from $700 to $200, or something. And everybody in Canada was sitting there, you know, wondering, ‘well, why don’t we have that?'”

WATCH | Is air travel broken?

Prentice said the Canadian government followed the U.S., loosening its grip on the airline industry throughout the 1980s and ’90s. During that time, Air Canada became privatized and more carriers entered the Canadian market. As competition ramped up, airfares went down.

But that’s not the only reason flying became cheaper, explained Prentice.

Advances in aviation technology meant planes became more fuel efficient and larger, which increased air cargo and passenger capacity. Prentice said that — along with the 1980s oil glut, brought down the price per seat.

Even when crude prices rebounded, legacy airlines like Air Canada couldn’t go back to charging passengers as much for flights as they did before deregulation because they were up against the à la carte pricing model of no-frills carriers, said Lazar.

Submitted by Julie LeBlond ParkerSubmitted by Julie LeBlond Parker

Submitted by Julie LeBlond Parker

“Many people said, ‘We didn’t have to pay for bags, we got food for free, we didn’t have to pay for earphones,” Lazar said.

“Well now, in the lowest-fare categories, you do, because the airlines want to compete with the ultra low-cost carriers. And that’s the only way they can do it.”

Lazar, who has also worked as a consultant for Qantas, Air Canada and Porter Airlines, said stripping away the luxuries and packing more seats on planes is a “major contributing factor to making flying in economy much less comfortable and attractive, yet much more affordable.”

Snafus at security

While Canadians often blame airlines for a lousy flying experience, chaos at airport security and gates can also contribute to the overall unpleasantness of air travel. Experts say that’s because airports aren’t designed for the realities of today’s travel.

Between 1973 and 2008, Anthony Wade-Cooper was a flight attendant for CP Air, Canadian and Air Canada. He says before 9/11, he could make it from the check-in counter to the gate in 20 minutes.

“It was just so different. You just walked into the airport and you got on a flight,” he said Wade-Cooper, who is now retired in a town called Mooloolaba on Australia’s Sunshine Coast.

Nowadays, airlines ask passengers flying domestic to arrive at the airport two hours in advance and Wade-Cooper said he often spends most of that time standing in a queue.

Brenna Owen/The Canadian PressBrenna Owen/The Canadian Press

Brenna Owen/The Canadian Press

Security snafus are also a result of a steady increase in air travel over the last decade — peaking in 2019 with nearly 163 million passengers passing through Canadian airports, according to Statistics Canada.

According to Lazar, most airports were not built for a post-9/11 world where every traveller has to take off their belt and shoes. There are also design problems when passengers arrive at gates. Lazar says some airports are designed like malls — a lot of shops and restaurants but not a lot of seating.

“There’s no place to sit. You know, if you have long delays, where are you going to go?”

But what we get in exchange for fewer perks and busier airports, said Prentice, are cheaper flights — and that means more people than ever can afford to fly. Which he thinks is a “really good thing.”

“More families can travel and, over time, families have split up wider and wider. My grandchildren are in Montreal and I’m in Winnipeg and I wouldn’t see them very often if it weren’t for air travel.”

If you’re wondering if there’s a way to get back a bit of the elegance or at least the enjoyment of flying, Lazar said you can’t expect to pay rock bottom prices.

He said the only way back to the golden age of travel is to fly first class or rent a private jet.

“Otherwise, just accept the fact that air travel is really the same as travelling on a bus. Except it gets you from A to B much more quickly.”

Air CanadaAir Canada

Air Canada

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