The COVID-19 pandemic forced many companies to adopt remote work policies to reduce the spread of the virus. According to a survey conducted by Statistics Canada, many Canadian businesses shifted to hybrid/remote work environment during the pandemic, and many remain in that same environment. That survey also found that Saskatchewan saw the most dramatic shift to workforces that were more than 50% remote.
The City of Moose Jaw had only started to evaluate the potential of video conferencing when the Province of Saskatchewan first implemented restrictions in March, 2020. It was forced to be creative, innovative and use its resources to the utmost to be able to continue to provide essential services, continued to meet the objectives of its Strategic Plan, continued to ensure that as much as possible that it was business as usual under the new restrictions including Council Meetings and assistance to Council while ensuring distancing and minimal contact.
It created a hybrid/remote work environment where all city employees who could work remotely were authorized to do so and those working on site were subject to distancing, minimal contact and no large gatherings or meetings.
The pandemic also forced a rapid and massive pivot to take advantage of video conferencing services that continue to grow increasingly sophisticated. Video conferencing allowed staff and Council to stay in contact and provide the opportunity for face-to-face meetings. Communicating through e-mail, texts or even voice calls while efficient cannot replace the need for face-to-face meetings.
The City of Moose Jaw, staff of almost 300, budget of $ 110,000,000 and services provide in excess of 100 was able to successfully operate and thrive under this model during 2020 to 2023. Even during Covid, the organization ensured that all activities and resources supported and aligned with the Strategic Plan that was created in 2018. That ensured that objectives were reached and exceeded. Economic development in Moose Jaw become highly performing with a strategic focus of reducing red tape and creating an atmosphere of culture of growth. This plan facilitated over 1.3 billion dollars of investment in Moose Jaw during 2019 to 2023 regardless of the impacts of COVID-19 which is almost ten times of any five-year period in Moose Jaw’s past.
Moose Jaw Brand, Canada’s Most Notorious City was created under this strategic plan and took advantage of its decidedly colorful past and placed Moose Jaw at the forefront of a visionary marketing and tourism strategy.
Economic Development and Branding were only two of seven objectives included in the City of Moose Jaw Strategic Plan with tremendous progress in each area. There were over one hundred specific efficiency initiatives in the Entrepreneurial Civic Administration objective including a complete upgrade of its budgeting process, an award-winning Customer Relationship Management, award-winning Succession Planning Strategy and the implementation of a Climate Action Plan.
Many of the innovations to create a hybrid/remote work environment became standard operating including the capability to attend Council Meetings and other external and internal meetings virtually.
Other benefits of the innovations included:
Reduced travel time and other costs
Meetings became more focused and effective
Delegations were able to attend Council and other meetings virtually
Reduced absenteeism – employees are less likely to take sick time and willing to work remotely when feeling under the weather.
Greater pool of talent available as hybrid/remote work allows business to access talent from anywhere in the world and are not limited to local candidates.
Improved potential to retain talent as hybrid/remote work increases flexibility and provides a greater work/life balance. That can increase employee loyalty resulting in saved costs associated with recruiting, on-boarding and training.
Enhanced communications and expectations
The pandemic underscored the importance of agility and adaptability. Businesses that successfully navigated these challenging times demonstrated a capacity for rapid decision-making, innovation, and a commitment to excellence. COVID-19 forced businesses to be bold and reassess their operational parameters.
While COVID-19 restrictions have lifted, the lasting impact of the innovations necessitated by this challenging time has ushered in a new period of resilience, innovation, and digital transformation, providing extensive long-term benefits to business.