Employees show up to meetings from the balcony of a vacation home in Costa Rica. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
When the winter slump set in earlier this year, Scott Taber flew to more tropical climes, but he didn’t leave work behind.
The public relations agent spent two weeks working in sunny Florida, taking advantage of an initiative by his employer, Toronto-based Media Profile, which allows staff to spend a short period working from anywhere. Where in the world.
This kind of arrangement, which some call “traccances”, a contraction of the words work and vacation, is not entirely new to Canadian businesses, but it has been enjoying a resurgence in popularity with employees and employers since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, some companies that rarely saw their staff take the opportunity to go abroad or elsewhere in Canada for a few weeks or a few months are seeing employees rush to participate, while other companies offer such programs for the first time.
A December study of 1,000 people at vacation booking company Kayak estimates that 27% of employed Canadians and 38% of Gen Z workers, aged 18 to 24, will be tracing this year.
Media Profile allows its employees who have been with the company for at least six months to take between two and four weeks to work remotely and offers them a maximum of $3,000 for their travel or accommodation expenses.
The program aims to help staff maintain a healthy work-life balance and to provide flexibility. As soon as it was announced in November 2021, workers got on board.
“Immediately the chat channel exploded. People were so excited,” recalls Scott Taber.
The latter chose to go to Siesta Key, Florida, with his wife and daughter, to recover from the heaviness of daily life after two years of a pandemic.
“It was nice to go somewhere where the sun was shining and where you could walk, have a coffee, without having to bundle up,” he illustrated.
A colleague of Scott Taber ventured to San Diego. Another will travel to Nicaragua.
Tracing is also permitted at Thomson Reuters, where staff can work from anywhere in Canada for up to eight weeks.
Some use the program to care for elderly or sick loved ones they don’t live with, while others visit family they rarely see or move to a more scenic workspace, explained the media conglomerate’s human resources director, Mary Alice Vuicic.
She would like to be able to push the program even further to allow staff to venture outside of Canada, but Thomson Reuters must first consider foreign tax obligations and how to account for time spent working there. ‘foreigner.
An advantage for retaining talent
Mary Alice Vuicic hopes the program will give workers the flexibility they want, but she also sees it as a good way to attract talent in a market that has caused many of its workers to rethink their careers or realize that a paycheck was no longer enough to maintain a grueling job.
Workers are now looking for unique benefits that respect work-life balance. In response, many companies are offering welfare, daycare and elderly care allowances, more flexible hours and extra holidays.
“Companies that don’t provide the experience people are looking for won’t be able to attract and retain talent,” said Mary Alice Vuicic. “The talent is in the driver’s seat today.”
Talent is part of the reason why energy technology company EnPowered, based in Kitchener, Ont., is now allowing traces that can stretch for up to three months.
Employees show up to meetings from the balcony of a vacation home in Costa Rica, and another who had been invited to a wedding in India was able to extend her stay to reunite with her family.
“When I started in human resources, someone who wanted to (return to their home country) for a wedding had to save their vacation time for an entire year to be able to leave for three or four weeks (…) so it It’s good that she didn’t have to do that,” said EnPowered’s director of people and culture, Deidre Falkiner.
But some difficulties may arise. The woman in India, for example, was in a completely different time zone and felt disconnected from her colleagues. She eventually changed her hours so she could attend team meetings.
Others have raised questions about the privacy and security laws they may be subject to in another country, and the health care coverage they receive abroad, so the company must study local laws and software before anyone travels, and can limit overseas working time to three months to minimize situations where people might lose sickness or accident coverage .
As new problems arise, the company adjusts.
“If we don’t choose to continue having this conversation, we will never identify the best way to do things,” noted Deidre Falkiner.
“We will continue to learn.”