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Why employers may need to bend toward a more flexible future to stay competitive – CBC.ca

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You don’t have to convince Ross Simmonds about the benefits of remote work.

The founder and CEO of Foundation Marketing has been leading the way on that front, running his business as “remote first” since it started in 2014.

While the company may officially be based in Halifax, it employs team members as far away as Ireland and Nigeria.

“I like to say we’re based on the internet,” said Simmonds, whose 30-plus staff also includes people in the U.S. and a half-dozen Canadian provinces.

The long-term provision of more flexible work will remain a key draw for employees in Canada’s future economy and also for organizations looking to retain their services, employers and experts say.

It’s already the case in a COVID-altered work world that millions of Canadians are used to doing things differently and don’t necessarily want to go back to the way things were.

“Workers, at this point, who work online have come to expect to be able to continue to work online,” said Eddy Ng, the Smith Professor of Equity & Inclusion in Business at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

Talent retention

Some Canadian employers are factoring this reality into their thinking as they shape their approach to their business.

Megan Smith, the head of HR for SAP Canada, says organizations that want to attract the best talent are going to have to offer some degree of flexible work arrangements for their employees. (Submitted by Megan Smith)

At software giant SAP Canada, the organization is bending toward a more flexible future — one that many employers will have to contend with as they compete for talent, said SAP Canada vice-president and head of HR Megan Smith.

“Most talent, at this point, expects some degree of flexibility in where and when they work,” Smith said. “So organizations that really want to attract the best talent are going to want to offer some degree of that.”

WATCH | The momentum toward more flexible employment: 

Flexibility expected to be key to return to work

11 days ago

With more people returning to their offices, many employers are acknowledging that flexibility and a few perks will be needed to entice workers back to their desks. 2:01

Simmonds said it’s already clear people are moving toward jobs that provide that.

Foundation Marketing has been fielding inquiries about job opportunities from people at other companies who have been told they are going back to the office.

“That’s when we see a spike for the number of applicants applying for our roles,” said Simmonds.

Binod Sundararajan, the interim director of Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business, said companies are weighing what they are going to get by bringing people back to the office, including the impact on corporate culture. (Submitted by Binod Sundararajan)

Binod Sundararajan, the interim director of Dalhousie University’s Rowe School of Business, said companies are weighing what they are “going to get by bringing people back,” including the impact on corporate culture.

But that consideration is taking place amid an awareness that they have workers who want more flexibility, he said.

Varying preferences

Canada has more than four million people working at home, according to Statistics Canada’s latest labour force survey. That group would include many people whose remote work experience began with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Janet Candido, the founder and principal of the Toronto-based Candido Consulting Group, has observed a shifting set of employee preferences over the course of the pandemic.

Janet Candido, a Toronto-based HR consultant, says that at this point in the pandemic, there’s a demand for flexibility in work arrangements among those people who have been working at home. (Submitted by Janet Candido)

At the start, Candido heard employees expressing a strong desire to be able to work at home. Then some people found the home-work environment tough to adjust to, she said.

“Now that pendulum seems to have swung back, where people really do want not necessarily to work remotely all the time,” said Candido. “They want the flexibility now.”

But Candido, too, notes she has seen people leaving their jobs in recent months because they found a new employer that permits remote work.

Meanwhile, Simmonds said he’s seen organizations that are trying to implement a blend of office and remote work — a development he views as “a good step forward.”

When flexibility is offered to workers, Simmonds said, it’s key to convey to people they won’t be “viewed negatively” for preferring a remote setup, if that’s what works best for them.

“Don’t be afraid to go hybrid, but in doing so, don’t discipline those who do not embrace fully coming back to the office,” he said.

Less commuting, more options

The more traditional a company’s working arrangements, the more limited its hiring choices may be — at least when compared to organizations offering more flexible options.

WATCH | Are we seeing the new normal with remote work? 

Working from home ‘the new normal’ now, hiring expert says

2 days ago

Tanya Gullison with human resources consultancy LHH says companies that insist on having everyone in the office five days a week are going to be left behind in the job market, even after the pandemic is over. 1:14

“If you need everybody to come into the office, they need to be [living] within commuting distance,” said Candido.

That lack of a commute is one of the reasons Simmonds favoured remote work for Foundation Marketing. He thought others would feel the same way.

“I had a hypothesis that there was a lot of other people out there in the world who would get a lot of value for not having to do the commute and not having to work in an office building,” Simmonds said.

He said he also believed “it would be a competitive advantage to be able to be fully remote, because you would be able to attract some of the brightest and greatest minds, with no limit to their location.”

What about those left behind

There are, however, many workers for whom remote work won’t be an option in future — and not only because of the jobs they currently have.

Because to move to a job that can be done remotely, a person has to have a certain set of baseline digital skills that may not be easily acquired outside of a work or school context.

Eddy Ng is the Smith Professor of Equity & Inclusion in Business at Queen’s University. (Submitted by Eddy Ng)

“If they want to be part of the remote economy, they have to have new skills,” said Ng, noting this is a long-term problem that policy-makers have failed to solve.

And while some may see remote work as having potential to help alleviate some barriers for these workers, Ng said the reality is very different.

“The availability of workers who are underrepresented is simply not there,” said Ng, explaining these same people are often in jobs that do “not permit them to actually retrain or retool.”

There’s a need for employers to take a long-term view, Ng said, and be willing to invest in people to help them gain the broader skills required to move toward new employment.

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Apple poised as Peloton's saviour among news the company is pausing equipment production – MobileSyrup

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A recent report from CNBC regarding Peloton’s manufacturing rate helped plummet the company’s stock by 24 percent in a single day.

The media outlet reports the exercise bike manufacturer has temporarily halted production of its fitness products because of a drop in consumer demand.

Internal documents revealed bike productions will pause in February and March. Production of Bike+ was halted back in December and won’t resume until June. The Tread treadmill won’t start manufacturing again for six weeks until February. Further, production of Tread+ was previously halted and likely won’t resume this year.

This fueled ongoing rumours surrounding the fitness company’s production problems, with Insider reporting Peloton will lay off 41 percent of its staff in its sales and marketing departments.

Once noted as the darling of connected exercise equipment, the company is now struggling. CNBC says that Peloton overestimated how many people would buy its products after a jump in sales tied to at-home workouts during the pandemic.

Now experts are saying the only way to save the Peloton is if tech giant Apple purchases it. Financial advice publication, The Motley Fool, reports Apple has the cash to spare and “wants to be a force in health and wellness.” However, the article also notes a possible acquisition would “benefit Peloton far more than it would Apple,” given the fitness company’s smaller “market opportunity.”

Peloton CEO John Foley has denied that production is slowing or halted and says media reports are “incomplete and out of context.”

“Rumors that we are halting all production of bikes and Treads are false,” Foley wrote in a letter of response.

However, he did acknowledge layoffs may soon be on the horizon.

“We now need to evaluate our [organizational] structure and size of our team, with the utmost care and compassion. And we are still in the process of considering all options as part of our efforts to make our business more flexible,” he wrote.

Image credit: Shutterstock

Sources: CNBC, Insider, The Motley Fool

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Latest research says combination of throat and nose swabs provides better COVID-19 rapid test results: Nova Scotia Health – CTV News Atlantic

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In a Canadian first, Nova Scotia researchers say COVID-19 rapid tests that include both throat and nose swabs provide greater accuracy in detecting the virus.

Up until now, the instructions provided by the manufacture has been for nasal swab only.

Now, based on research led by Nova Scotia Health’s microbiology team, public health is recommending Nova Scotians using rapid tests swab both their throat and nose when collecting their sample.

In a release Friday, Nova Scotia Health said its working to update the current testing instructions that people receive when they pick up a rapid test.

The research was prompted by public discussion theorizing that a combined sample may produce more accurate results.

Speaking to CTV Thursday, Dr. Todd Hatchette, the chief of the province’s Division of Microbiology, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, said researchers found using a single swab on a person’s throat first, and then in both nostrils is more effective at detecting Omicron than doing either site alone.

“When we tested just over 1,500 people, we found that either the nose or the throat both detected about 60 per cent of people, but if you did a combined nose / throat, it detected over 82 per cent of people,” said Hatchette.

The research started about a week ago. Officials at the microbiology lab worked with volunteers at the Halifax Convention Centre testing site to collect the data.

In Friday’s release, Nova Scotia Health says collaboration with volunteer-based community rapid testing sites was key to the project’s success and allowed the project to rapidly answer a question that many jurisdictions across the country have been asking.

The investigation compared results of a common rapid take-home test using three sample sites: nasal swab; throat swab and; combined nasal/throat, the release said. All results were confirmed with PCR testing. Compared to PCR test results, samples from nasal or throat swabs each detected 64.5 per cent of cases; however, combining the nose and throat swabs increased sensitivity to 88.7 per cent.

This research project has been submitted for publication.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, speaking Friday from Ottawa, welcomed the Nova Scotia swab study.

“I’ve asked our laboratory network, our laboratory experts, to take that into account and see whether we can provide some sort of guidance,” Tam said. “But, of course, I think we’ve been discovering that the Omicron variant may be behaving a bit differently to the previous variants, so this approach, this swabbing, might be useful.”

One thing to note, public health is advising that if only one location of the sample is being used, it should be the nasal swab, as the throat swab alone is not as effective as the nasal swab.

Nova Scotia is the first to report research results supporting a combined throat/nose collection method for self-administered rapid antigen tests.

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Gold price next week: a breakout or a sideways trap? All eyes on hawkish Fed and stocks volatility – analysts – Kitco NEWS

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(Kitco News) The gold market surprised with a breakout above $1,830 an ounce this week. And analysts say next week will be pivotal in whether gold breaks out or gets stuck in the sideways price action again.

In an unexpected move, the precious metal surged to two-month highs this week, with investors flocking to safe havens as volatility rocked the equity markets ahead of the Federal Reserve meeting next week.

With stocks and the crypto space selling off, money has to go somewhere, RJO Futures senior market strategist Frank Cholly told Kitco News.

“Gold rallied this week due to all the weakness in the equity market. Bitcoin is down pretty good too,” Cholly said. “We have a bottom in gold. The question is, are we going to go lower and stay sideways or climb towards $1,900. The precious metal needs another close above $1,830. It’s critical to hold that level before a move above $1,850.”

The move in gold did surprise some analysts because of how swift it was, said Gainesville Coins precious metals expert Everett Millman.

“The gold market has been going sideways for several months. To see a breakout in either direction was a bit surprising. Coming into this week, sentiment in the gold market was very negative. Many big banks were projecting the gold price to go down. This ended up playing in gold’s favor as negative sentiment set us up for a reversion in another direction,” Millman said.

Also, rising oil prices and strong retail demand have contributed to higher price levels in gold. “Higher oil does make it more expensive to get gold out of the ground. We could see constraints in the gold supply being mined. Plus, the real demand for gold is still strong. The U.S. Mint saw 12-year highs in gold sales, while the Perth Mint saw 10-year highs. Average retail investors are still buying gold at the fastest pace in ten years,” Millman added.

All eyes are on how markets will react to the Federal Reserve monetary policy meeting, scheduled for Wednesday. Cholly estimates to see a steeper sell-off in U.S. equities as the central bank maintains the same level of hawkishness.

“We could go through a more meaningful correction in equities. We’ll have more evidence of the Fed’s direction. And the stock market likes to throw tantrums to get the Fed’s attention. Next week, gold’s strength will hinge on equities moving lower and reallocation of money into precious metals. Silver may even become the leader as we move forward,” Cholly pointed out.

If gold does break above $1,850, it opens the door for $1,870-80 and eventually $1,900, he added.

Fed in focus

The Fed meeting, which will be followed by the central bank Chair Jerome Powell’s press conference, is the biggest macro event next week.

Analysts expect to get more hawkish clues in terms of the first rate hike in March and more clarity around the potential balance sheet runoff. Currently, markets are pricing in four rate hikes in 2022.

“With the Omicron wave now past its peak nationally, there is little to hold the Fed back, particularly if next week brings news of a further acceleration in wage growth,” said Capital Economics chief North America economist Paul Ashworth. “A dissenting vote, to raise rates immediately, from one of the hawkish regional Fed Presidents – who will be voting as part of the annual rotation – could also add fuel to the recent bond market sell-off.”



There is also a risk that the Fed could get even more hawkish by announcing the completion of the tapering process immediately, said ING chief international economist James Knightley.

“The Federal Reserve meeting will be the main focus, and we strongly suspect that we could see the announcement of the ending of QE asset purchases brought forward from the mid-March end-point currently signaled, to an immediate cessation, “Knightley wrote. “In an environment where the economy has fully recovered the lost output from the pandemic, where unemployment is back below 4% and where inflation is at near 40-year highs, it seems strange to say the least for them to continue stimulating the economy.”

Other key data releases to keep an eye on will be Tuesday’s CB consumer confidence, Thursday’s Q4 GDP number, jobless claims and durable goods orders, as well as Friday’s PCE price index.

“We expect to learn that fourth-quarter GDP growth was a slightly disappointing 4.0% annualized. But markets may focus more on the Employment Cost Index (ECI). Private wage growth hit 4.6% y/y in the third quarter and could have climbed as high 5% in the fourth, which would make a March rate hike a near-certainty,” Ashworth noted.

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