A Canadian non-profit organization that has spent the past two decades helping people commute to work more efficiently has expanded its programming with a course offering remote work strategies to small businesses.
Founded twenty years ago, pointA helped launch Smart Commute, an initiative in the Greater Toronto Area focused on helping individuals and organizations commute efficiently and sustainably. Today, the non-profit works to “create positive change through sustainable commutes,” offering customized commute solutions for large businesses such as Smart Commute program delivery, relocation support, and shuttle services.
This year, with the support of the Future Skills Centre, pointA introduced a new virtual course to help small businesses in Canada develop a long-term, sustainable remote work strategy. Inspired by the organization’s own experience implementing a “hybrid remote” workplace in late 2019—which, after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, became fully remote—the free, interactive course is intended to help small businesses across Canada develop and implement a strategy for remote work.
“There are so many positive benefits that come from having a hybrid remote work strategy,” says Dorinda So, Executive Director of pointA. “We had all of these great lessons from our experience and we really wanted to share them with people.”
The resulting program, a course called “Remote work strategies for small businesses,” was piloted in the summer of 2021, covering topics such as creating and implementing a personalized strategy for remote work, improving work/life balance for employees, and using design thinking tools for small businesses.
Designed for everyone from solopreneurs launching a new, remote business to more established organizations looking to make their workplace more inclusive and sustainable, the course is offered as a four-day intensive (two hours a day) for fall 2021. There is a live video component as well as taped recordings available on demand.
“It’s very interactive, and we’re really trying to foster networking and mentorship,” So says. “And at the end of the four days, you have a strategy for remote work that you can implement.”
The primary intent is to help businesses take some time and think about their remote work strategy, So says. When there is one in place, it’s easier to answer the questions that come up, and figure out what implementation might look like.
“What is the problem you’re trying to solve? What are you using this tool for? Who’s using this tool? What needs to change if you’re introducing this?” So says.
“The course is really a strategy and innovation course; that’s what we’re trying to teach in terms of skill. But we’re using remote work as an example, because we do want to make it very tangible.”
So emphasizes the importance of strategy when it comes to remote work. “The advantage of having a strategy is that it’s a plan, but also you want to make sure that plan can be communicated well to get buy-in from everyone else,” she says. “Your employees, vendors and customers are going to be affected by this, and hopefully positively.”
It starts with communication, and continues with process. “The course addresses process mapping, and how you can automate it or make it digital,” So says. “I think it’s really about communicating needs: What are the problems, and how do we work on that together?”
She suggests organizations should also be striving to make remote work better, optimizing to address the expectations and requirements of employees. “You have to remember that if your best assets are your employees, then you really need to be addressing their needs,” she says.
“I think a lot of creativity is coming out from this time, and we’re hoping to work with [businesses and] employees on that,” So says. For an organization like pointA, supporting remote work from a smart commute perspective is not only about work-from-home strategies. It’s also thinking about the positive aspects of commuting—for example, the physical benefits of walking or cycling—and how employees can still access them while working from home.
These days, sustainable transportation also involves working with transit operators and governments to “make sure everyone feels safe,” So says. It also involves encouraging solutions such as improved transit and carpooling. “The hope is that we’re not all getting into our cars to drive because, as you can see, it’s already so busy on the roads,” So says.
Visit pointa.ca to learn more, and sign up for the next “Remote work strategies for small businesses” course.