Money talks? Freedom the hottest commodity to hit employment

Sunira Chaudhri

Sunira Chaudhri

Toronto Employment Lawyer

Many of us had little time for family or other personal pursuits during the week. The truly ambitious curtailed their passions to Friday, free to unleash the ‘weekend warrior’ from within, only to again shrink back into working life come Monday.

COVID was a revolution for those longing to be unchained.


Pre-COVID, many workers could relate to the movie Groundhog Day — commuting, working eight-hours a day (or more), and then another long commute home.


Many of us had little time for family or other personal pursuits during the week. The truly ambitious curtailed their passions to Friday, free to unleash the ‘weekend warrior’ from within, only to again shrink back into working life come Monday.


Suddenly, with the onset of the pandemic, some employees were handed a blank canvas with the ability to take agency over their own lives, dictating how they worked, and where they worked. The world of remote work was born and embraced.


More than two years has gone by, and many remote workers do not want to go back to the days of yore.


A recent Fortune article reported that David Solomon, CEO of Goldman Sachs, ordered all 10,000 of employees to return to the office at its headquarters in lower Manhattan.


According to Solomon, remote work “is not ideal for us, and it’s not a new normal.”


However, when the investment banking firm reopened its U.S.-based offices in February, only half of its employees showed up on the first day.


Similarly, in November, Business Insider reported more than a third of employees would take a pay cut to continue working from home.


The motives that shackled us to traditional working paradigms have shifted. Money is not the driving force it once was. Perhaps employers should cautiously turn to betting on culture, autonomy and other perks to incentivize employee retention without raising the bottom line.


Some incentives that employers can consider adding to the workplace that are inexpensive, or even free, include:


EDUCATION-DRIVEN INITIATIVES: Enrolling teams or employees in courses (that can be free) or taking the time to share learning across your organization allows employees to evolve and grow. The indirect impact of education initiatives is that employees get to network among themselves, and management get to identify employees who are aiming to grow in the organization.


DRIVE YOUR MISSION HOME: Often organizations are meeting heavy but those meetings are not anchored with any core purpose. Heck, most organizations can’t pinpoint their purpose at all. Invoke your company’s mission or purpose into team meetings with themes like customer service, growth, truth or passion. Anchor team meetings with an opening or closing routine or ritual (i.e. let’s share something we learned this week) to build company culture from the ground up.


GIVE BACK: Creating a commitment to charity or volunteer-based work, strengthens team relationships and gives employees a good feeling about working for you.


BE AUTHENTIC ABOUT COMPANY NEEDS: Returning to the office is a hot-button issue. Be mindful about how each role is impacted by remote work. If work must be done in person, be clear about the “why” to build trust and alignment while also providing workers with autonomy to work remotely (if possible).


If remote work is going to make up at least part of your workforce, find new ways to drive culture without driving up the budget.


On to this week’s questions:


Q. I asked my employer for a letter of reference, but they said no and something about it being against company policy. I thought all employers have to give a letter of reference when an employee is terminated?


A. No, you are not entitled to a reference on termination. However, employers that don’t provide a letter of reference could be seen negatively by failing to help an employee’s ability to reemploy. As an alternative to a reference letter, perhaps you can ask for a letter confirming your job title, responsibilities and how long you worked for your employer. Think about asking a trusted colleague for an endorsement online (like Linkedin). Often endorsements like this can go a long way to supporting your next job search.


Q. I was terminated after 15 years of working for my employer. I have only been paid eight weeks and my employer says he is going out of business because of COVID. I have never even prepared a resume before and can’t imagine how I would get a job in less than two months. I know that it has been a really tough on my employer, and I don’t want to kick them when they are down, but I took on a lot of work during COVID and I did not complain about the increased workload and now I find myself out of a job. Can I somehow get more?


A. Sometimes employers say they are going out of business but do not formally close up shop or file for bankruptcy. If this is the case, you may be able to pursue damages against your employer and increase the offer made to you. If, however, your company is not going to be around for more than a few months, suing your employer is like singing opera in an empty concert hall — a big performance for an audience of none


Have a workplace issue? Maybe I can help! Email me at and your question may be featured in a future column.


The content of this article is general information only and is not legal advice.

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