Now that The Big Do is over, and the security fences are coming down in Toronto and Huntsville—hopefully—let’s take a moment to reflect on how all the hubbub affected local businesses.
I guess the first questions are: did the G8 or G20 summit affect your operations in any way, and how?
It’s fair to say that most businesses in downtown Toronto experienced some sort of disruption over the weekend and the week leading up to the G20 summit. From what I’ve read in the papers and heard from friends who work in the security zones, many employers decided to send most employees home for the period—not on vacation mind you, but to telecommute—while maintaining a “skeleton staff” at the office. Remember, we’re talking thousands of workers—including all levels of government—here in one of the densest employment areas in the country.
But many businesses, like shops, restaurants and others that rely on walk-in customers, simply chose to close for the period. What else could they do?
I’ve read less about what’s happening in Huntsville for the G8, but I’d like to know how the summit affected organizations up there.
Another question is: was it worth it?
Besides the value of whatever potential political decisions the assembled world leaders made or agreed to make in the future, one way that people will inevitably measure the value of the summits to the cities Toronto and Huntsville and Canada in general is by the amount of money that the delegates and their retinues spent during their stay. According to this calculation, it will be mainly hotels and other accommodation and hospitality services, like caterers and limousines that have benefited.
I doubt that the costs of the summits will be balanced by the economic inputs, even though the media are saying thousands of people—mainly bureaucrats, journalists and protesters—descended on the summit locations. But I do have hope for a significant positive long-term outcome: a massive increase in telecommuting.
Maybe I’m grasping at straws here. I understand if you think so. I was surprised myself when the thought came to me the other day. But it is just possible that the summits redeem their costs by encouraging employers to rethink telecommuting. In fact, a massive boost in telecommuting could even balance the billion dollar price tag for the summits—over time, lots and lots of time.
Still, while I don’t want to say that that benefit would have made the summits entirely “worth it”—the true intended value of these things is political—I believe that telecommuting is an advance that has and will have many positive effects as it spreads throughout organizations across the country. And if that spread starts in Toronto, then great!
You’ve probably heard most of this before, but employers gain many advantages by having employees telecommute. By working from home, employees don’t have to spend hours in traffic, which has negative individual, social and environmental effects. (Personally, I believe that automobile traffic is an evil that we should be exerting great amounts of energy to combat.) Moreover, telecommuting employees don’t use workplace resources, such as electricity, heating, air conditioning and physical space.
For my part, when I work from home—which I do several days a week—I often start earlier and finish later, and I have fewer distractions.
There are disadvantages: not all employees or jobs are compatible with telecommuting, and for the moment many employees probably couldn’t handle the freedom. But reasonably simple shifts in work culture, management styles and task allocation could improve the prospects of success for a work-from-home program at any organization.
Well, what I really want to know is how the summits affected your work over the past week and weekend. Did you send workers home? Will you do so in the future? Or was it business as usual?
Human Resources and Compliance Editor