Fire Fighting in Canada

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Comment: Great expectations

October 4, 2021
By Laura Aiken

During the pandemic, uncertainty has made expectations a particularly difficult thing for leaders to manage. Public expectations of their governments have been met or missed. Employee expectations of their employer have been met or missed. Same storm, different boats, individual experiences, however you want to slice it, leaders have been challenged to meet the needs of varying personalities, perspectives and circumstances in a novel and often remote way as change unfolded in sometimes unexpected or surprising directions. So has gone the pandemic: Uncertainty, met expectations, missed expectations, wash, rinse, repeat. Certainty hasn’t been a player, but such is the sport of life.  

Things are settling, somewhat, though the arrival of a fourth wave seems certain as I write this. Expectations are still evolving, the landscape of this changed world is morphing. 

In Fire Chief Chris Harrow’s Leadership Forum on page 12, he talks about the need to meet the new expectations of volunteer firefighters in particular through a new sensitivity to their time and how it is spent. The new politics of socializing may be complicated by people’s status as unvaccinated or vaccinated, which is sure to impact workplaces. A July survey by Angus Reid among those who have received at least one dose of vaccine so far only half (53 per cent) say they’re likely spend time around those who have not received their jabs. This, even after they are fully immunized themselves and have built up their immunity. 

 The fire service is amongst many workplaces facing an insurgence of new expectations. A global report on the changing expectations and the future of work by Steelcase shares the synthesis of eight primary studies designed to measure how the COVID-19 pandemic will change the future of work. The quantitative and qualitative studies deployed methodologies based in the social sciences and were conducted in multiple countries, including over 32,000 participants. Individual experience accounted for a lot, with the Canadians surveyed reporting a 16 per cent drop in engagement when people were not fans of working from home and 25 per cent expected a more fully hybrid model of two to three days a week still spent in their home office. Will their employer meet their expectations? It isn’t possible to please everyone, but the catchword “pivot” has pivoted to become the new buzz “hybrid” and the end game of all is flexibility. But that too has its own end – there is only so flexible things can be before dysfunction erupts. Clarity in communications, the anchor during the pandemic, will be just as needed in a post-pandemic Canada.It’s a time of great expectations, but also of great opportunity to lead with clarity and care through a time of change. 

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