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Going back to the office full-time comes at the cost of inclusion and diversity.PeopleImages

Content from The Globe’s weekly Women and Work newsletter, part of The Globe’s Women’s Collective. To subscribe, click here.

“When I was raising my two boys and trying to advance my career in tech, I often faced seemingly impossible choices. Trying to juggle drop-offs, school events, sports and other family activities with travel, meetings and work at the office – it seemed like I could never do enough,” says Mary Ann Yule, chief executive and president of HP Canada.

“That level of pressure can take a heavy toll. I have seen women pass up projects and promotions and even leave promising careers because of the balancing act required.

“Today, though, hybrid workplaces are ubiquitous as a byproduct of the pandemic. More professional women have an opportunity to re-enter the workplace on their terms, while improving the balance between their work and home lives.

“As we continue to edge toward a new normal, some particularly loud voices in the tech industry have begun to call for a return to the office full-time. But before we rush back, we need to consider what that requirement means for inclusion efforts.”

Read the full article for Mary Ann Yule’s take on how back-to-office mandates hurt under-represented groups.

ROB Magazine’s Corporate Citizen of the Year: University Pension Plan’s Barbara Zvan is at the vanguard of climate action

On a hot and muggy Thursday this past summer, from deep within the sweltering concrete canyons of Toronto’s financial district, Barbara Zvan issued a stone-cold salvo.

On July 21, the University Pension Plan Ontario (UPP), which she leads, presented a report detailing its first operational year. With it came a new Climate Action Plan that committed the young organization to a net-zero portfolio by or before 2040 – a full decade ahead of the 2050 deadline set out in the Paris Climate Agreement many in finance are using as a target – and promised to avoid investing in coal and other “companies that present significant climate risk.” Included were aggressive interim targets, detailed processes to encourage the decarbonization efforts of heavy emitters and a fleet of accountability metrics.

It was an unexpectedly bold statement for a year-old plan to make, one that “unequivocally established [the UPP] as a climate leader in Canada’s pension sector,” according to Shift: Action for Pension Wealth and Planet Health, a charitable initiative dedicated to advancing sustainable pensions.

“Barbara is always building; her brain operates five years down the line,” says former Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan CEO and current UPP trustee Ron Mock, who worked with Zvan for nearly 20 years at Teachers. “She likes to make sure she’s seeing where things are going, and she likes to be out in front.”

Read the full article for how Barbara Zvan is future-proofing the UPP.

In case you missed it

Boosting office morale in a hybrid workplace

Amanda MacLeod thought she had landed the perfect job. There was only one problem: It was located in Charlottetown and she didn’t want to move away from her home in Amherst, N.S.

Ms. MacLeod, a 38-year-old communications and events professional, applied anyway; it was too interesting a position to resist. Perhaps they would be willing to work out an arrangement, she thought.

Fast forward five months, and Ms. MacLeod is working at her new position remotely from Amherst. She is the marketing and partnerships manager at the Canadian Alliance for Skills and Training in Life Sciences (CASTL), which was created to develop Canada’s biopharmaceutical manufacturing workforce.

Ms. MacLeod says working remote allows her to be close to her family.

”The older generation is only getting older, and the younger generation is important to build lasting bonds with,” she says. “I have a niece and nephew I think the world of and being able to be accessible to them for visits is tremendously important to me.”

The pandemic had a massive impact on Canadian workplaces as work-from-home became the norm in many industries. But as some employees return to the office while others stay hybrid or remote, employers have a new challenge: How do you keep team members connected with each other when they’re working in different locations?

Read the full article here.

Do you have ‘diversity fatigue’? People doing DEI work often face frustration, isolation

Earlier this year, Jen Anthony began noticing a pattern emerging among the clients she was helping with their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.

“Everybody still really wants to do the work – but they’re stuck,” says Ms. Anthony, senior vice-president and DEI communications practice lead at Toronto-based communications agency FleishmanHillard HighRoad.

”[People are] still excited about the possibilities, but they’re frustrated by a lack of progress,” she says.

What Ms. Anthony is describing is “diversity fatigue.” The term was coined in the 1990s to describe the stress companies complained about as they diversified their hiring practices. Since then – and particularly in a post-2020 working world, when events like the Black Lives Matter protests prompted many companies to re-double their DEI efforts – the term has morphed to encompass the feelings of frustration, isolation and even demoralization that people doing the daily work of building more equitable workspaces experience.

Read the full article here.

Ask Women and Work

Question: I read your recent story about alcohol-based work activities with interest. I’m planning my work holiday party this year and I’d like to do something a little different. The truth is, we normally just bring in a bunch of alcohol and play music in the company’s dining/lounge space. Plus, a Secret Santa, which often involves gifts of wine and liquor. I’d like to switch things up this year and remove the emphasis on the alcohol, but the budget is tight. Plus, I want everyone to have fun. Any ideas?

We asked Dionne Bishop, founder, Events by Dionne Inc., to field this one:

Holiday parties can easily fall into the ‘rinse and repeat’ format of music and a robust bar, and not much else. It’s great that you’re thinking about switching things up this year.

When designing holiday events for companies, we always encourage alternative ideas beyond an open bar. The point of the party is to have fun, celebrate a year well done and get to know your colleagues in a more relaxed setting.

Here are some ideas you can try this year:

1. Large format games. It’s always a big win when colleagues can bond over a good game of bean bag toss, over-sized Connect 4 or Jenga. Try to avoid games like pool or foosball since those require enough skill to be intimidating.

2. Instead of Secret Santa where the name draw is done in advance, consider having guests bring a gift to contribute to the ‘Prize Pool.’ Play an icebreaker like ‘Company Bingo’ where guests have to find others in the room who match a statement (eg. ‘Has a dog’ or ‘Can speak a second language’) and give prizes away when people get Bingo.

3. Always cost effective yet highly entertaining, show a photo slideshow of the past highs and lows for the company and its employees. If you have photos of an Earth Day tree planting, the annual general meeting, golf tournament or other social activities, create a fun slideshow and play that throughout the night with a live DJ. If you get folks focused on dancing and laughing, they won’t notice the reduced alcohol.

4. A new idea that I’ve been rolling out is serving mocktails in cocktail glasses. Often, the allure of the bar is a pretty-looking drink in the pretty glass because it feels special. Try changing your glassware when serving soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages and you might see that even your ‘drinkers’ are lining up to grab one.

5. Consider the comfort of everyone in the room. Whether you are planning an event for 50 or 400, creating spaces where introverts can connect quietly and extroverts can freely mingle is key.

The Globe and Mail

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