5 Canadian Workplace Observations to Help Immigrants Integrate

Each workplace has its own unique characteristics that are influenced by regulations, societal expectations, and corporate policies. For immigrants, successfully integrating into a new job then requires adjusting to Canadian workplace norms.

Success at a New Job Requires Adjusting to its Norms
Success at a New Job Requires Adjusting to its Norms

Here are 5 things that you should know about the Canadian workplace:

Employees refer to each other by their first names regardless of their rank.

It took me a while to adjust to calling the highest-ranking executive by their first name. In my home country, this is regarded as disrespectful to senior employees. But, most Canadians seem uncomfortable when addressed as Sir or Ma’am while a few get offended.

This is one of the effective verbal communication tips for the Canadian workplace that a new immigrant needs to know to adjust and flourish in their new job.

Bringing Packed Lunches is Common in Canadian Workplaces
Bringing Packed Lunches is Common in Canadian Workplaces

Most employees pack lunch for work.

Companies in Canada do not usually operate cafeterias for their employees. The highly multicultural environment results in different food restrictions and preferences. Because of this, a cafeteria operator needs to serve many options to cater to these restrictions and preferences. Also, the operator will need to consider restrictions in preparing the meals. For example, there might be a need to designate cooking utensils to accommodate some religious requirements. Therefore, it is not profitable or economical to run a cafeteria for workers.

One more thing to consider is the liability. Cafeterias may require licenses and inspections. These may be additional requirements that a business owner or manager may not want to worry about.

Workplaces in Canada usually have short breaks. The Canada Labour Code provides at least one break every 5 consecutive hours of work, with a minimum duration of 30 minutes. The short breaks plus the country’s massive land area do not make driving to food places an attractive option.

Canadian workplaces reflect its multicultural society. You will come across food that is not familiar to you. Remember to be respectful of people’s rights and cultures before making comments or gestures about their food.

Work-Life Balance is Important to Canadian Employees

Canadians put a premium on work-life balance and time.

Based on my observations, Canadians have a deep commitment to work-life balance and place an immense value on time.

Canadians have a busy life outside work. Unlike in other countries, household help is very rare and expensive in this part of the world. Since the family unit is small, there is no one to delegate household chores. Also, Canadians have numerous interests outside their professional life such as volunteering, health and fitness, and children’s activities. These entail efficient use of time.

Working overtime is not rare. However, it is not as glorified or as common as in other countries. The criteria for evaluating the performance relies heavily on completing the tasks according to specifications vs. fulfilling the required hours. This being said, hourly employees need to complete their required hours to get their full payment. So, it is also not rare to see hourly employees hover by the time clock a minute before their shift ends.

Because of the need for efficient use of time, workplaces and society put a premium on punctuality.

A Unique Canadian Workplace
A Unique Canadian Workplace

Events are straightforward.

In Canada, events are usually short and straight to the point. This is an important reminder to keep in mind if given the task of organizing an event. There may be an introduction, main event, then question and answer. Done. This is a great practice as employees can make effective use of their time.

Canadian workplace events do not usually include prayers, singing of the national anthem, or cultural presentations. Though events are efficient and devoid of fluffs, I sometimes miss the songs and dances incorporated in programs back home.

Personal Protective Equipment

Canadian workplaces prioritize health and safety.

One of the great things about Canada is its strong legal framework. In particular, the workplace safety regulations are well developed. For example, there are regulations related to bullying and harassment, requirements for first aid attendants, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) use.

I work in the manufacturing industry. My employer must provide necessary PPEs to qualified employees for free. As part of my job, I sometimes have to do work inside the plant. So, my employer issued a hard hat, ear protection, eye protection, clothing with high visibility strips, and steel-toe shoes to me. I also have a warm jacket with high visibility strips.

Some employers are also required to facilitate tests to ensure their employees’ safety. In a manufacturing setting, employers organize free annual hearing tests for their employees.

To adhere to these regulations and company policies, employees at all levels must follow all health and safety guidelines. Employers must then train and monitor their employees to ensure compliance with these regulations.

Success in a new job requires quick and effective integration into the workplace. In turn, this requires knowledge of the Canadian workplace norms.

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