A Money Coach in Canada

Follow & Subscribe


Photo Credit:  Laffy4K

I’m going in to my office for a couple hours tomorrow for a project that came up at 4:30pm on Friday.   I was caught completely off guard when my manager encouraged me to enter the hours into peoplesoft so that I get paid overtime.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids, or maybe it’s because much of my working life I’ve had my own business but frankly I don’t firmly compartmentalize “work” | “the rest of my life”.   Part of this is due to the fact that I’ve always ensured my work has personal meaning to me (with a couple regrettable exceptions).  When your work is connected to your values it’s not something you want to leave at the door.

These porous boundaries are amplified for all of us, I think, by web 2.0.    The ability to interact professionally or personally is no longer bounded by time or location. When I’m on facebook, am I working or simply hanging out with friends?  What if those friends gives me valuable info that I bring into my work role?  Or what if I  FB Friend someone from work, and we develop a camaraderie  which translates to a high-trust culture on the job?

Beyond that, the 9-5 model is based on industrialization and very few of us work in factories.  I don’t know about you, but many of my best ideas or insights come outside of 9-5.  This weekend I’ve spent several hours reading Finding Dahshaa (and if any canadians want to be flung back in your assumptions about First Nations and the rest of us, this is the book!) and Housecalls by Dogsled.  Both will inform, for the better, my approach to my work.   Neither are books I’d have read while in Vancouver.   So is this work, or pleasure?  What about the many times I’m reading blogs and stumble across something that will come to bear on my work?  You get the idea.

Conversely, heaven knows many hours between 9-5 are (at least on the surface) not directly yielding any particular results:  I may be distracted by my sick dog, I may have intellectually wandered far afield from the task at hand or I may be spending too much time pouring my coffee.  For myriad reasons, there’s plenty of time in the office that is not in any obvious, direct way contributing to accomplishment on the job.

What I’m really being paid to do is develop strategies to ensure the north has a world-class cadre of human capital.   Whether I do a better or lamer job of this is not a 9-5 question, but a creative, informed, get-it-done question.   And work-life balance is not a matter of walking away from this role at 5pm each day, but of ensuring all the parts of me – creative, intellect, spirit, body is nourished in all my environments.

I suppose we stick to pay-the-by-the-hour models because it’s the easiest way to measure something (but what?  other than butt in chair?), but it’s certainly not the accurate measure of value provided by employees.

Readers:  are you in a similar situation?  What do you really get paid for?  Have you heard of other compensation models besides piecemeal or performance bonuses?

About the Author

Imagine if Canadians were known for being all over their money. Engaged. Proactive. Getting out of debt. Savvy. Saving. Generous. Nancy wants to help. Nancy started her own journey with money over 15 years ago, and formed her company “Your Money by Design” in 2004 to help others along the same path. It’s not the usual financial advising/investment stuff. It’s about taking control of day-to-day finances –managing monthly cashflow effectively, spending appropriately, getting out of debt, saving. If you're ready to take control over your finances, pop by her business site, YourMoneybyDesign.com


  1. brad

    The most llberating job I ever had was when I worked as a journalist for a newsletter publisher: I worked on salary but the publisher didn’t keep track of sick time or vacation time: I was told that all I needed to do was get the newsletter in on deadline and deliver consistently excellent product. How I managed my time was completely up to me. I suppose many employers would be afraid to offer unlimited vacation/sick time due to the potential for abuse, but my publisher found the opposite: when you give staff your trust and treat them as responsible adults, most people will rise to the occasion.

    In my case the line between work and personal life was blurry, and I often worked nights, weekends, and holidays without complaint. But the “no complaint” part was due largely to the freedom my employer had offered me (as well as the fact that I mostly loved my job).

    In contrast, my current job requires me to fill out an electronic timesheet every day and our IT department recently started blocking access to sites that it deems clearly not work-related (such as Facebook); it even controls which web browser we can use. These kinds of policies might increase accountability and network security, but they do so at the expense of creating a partition between work and personal life. They also make employees feel as if they’re being treated like children.


    nancyzimmerman Reply:

    That’s extraordinary re: the publisher. Were you the only one who was afforded that degree of self-accountability or was it extended to other staff? I’m curious how they responded. I, like you, would respond very positively, but I wonder if other people would feel uncomfortable.
    Re: restricted sites, that’s a debate going on everywhere. My current employer (gov) restricted all manner of sites over the summer. We only have one (clearly inadequate for today’s demands) pipe up to Yellowknife, and it reached capacity. It is interesting to me that it was blogs and facebook etc. that were then restricted – clearly the decision makers (IT) are still of the (outdated, imo) mindset that there are sharp boundaries between “work” and “life” (ie. a blogger could never have something to say that would be directly relevant to our work as public servants)


    Sep 07, 2009
  2. brad

    All the editorial staff (about 15-20 people, mostly editors like myself but I think the graphic artists as well) had unrestricted vacation, sick leave, and holidays. In actual practice it wasn’t quite as awesome as it sounds because the realities of our deadlines meant that most of us ended up never taking much time off anyway. My newsletter came out twice a month, every month, and I was the editor, writer, researcher, secretary, etc….the only thing I didn’t do was layout, copyediting, handling subscriptions, and mailing. So there was no way I could, for example, take three weeks off in a row. My newsletter was largely news-driven, so I couldn’t write stories in advance — some of the other editors did have that luxury, and they often wrote entire issues in advance so they could take a month off.

    One great thing about that policy was that it did wonders for staff retention…nobody wanted to leave, because they knew they’d have a hard time finding another company with such a liberal approach.


    Sep 07, 2009
  3. having been in the work force for almost 40 years now, i’ve seen a number of models. one system i liked very much was one where we were asked to be around during core times, record our hours in a publicly viewable manual time log, and the rest was up to us. it did wonders for a company that was a little wobbly on morale.

    should “work” and “life” be separated? that depends on so many things. most pf all, probably, on the relationship a person has to her work and her employer. i’m thinking of all the salaried people who are expected to do overtime. and of people who show up at work and hardly do anything at all. a wide range of possibilities.

    for those of us intimately connected to social media, too much of a distinction between work and life is simply impossible. i feel quite ok about checking twitter and LinkedIn on a regular basis while working at my salaried position; there are too many good things in social media that impact on my work.

    my self-employed work life is totally integrated.

    the problem, however, is to go completely away from work. that is a HUGE challenge for me. the only way i can do that is by shutting down the computer and going away from it. the most i’ve been able to do that was for 3, 4 days.
    .-= isabella mori´s last blog ..acceptance =-.


    Sep 07, 2009
  4. It’s only true for those of you who work in offices. Those of us who work in production are either at work, or not at work. When we’re at work, we’re getting paid, even if we’re not doing any work. When we’re not at work, we’re not getting paid, and we’re also not doing work. It’s really simple.

    Of course most people who work in production don’t work 35 hours a week, either, so we actually have time to get things done during work hours.
    .-= Mongoose´s last blog ..Le blog écrémé =-.


    Sep 08, 2009
  5. NorthernLass

    Interesting point you bring up, as I think it’s very relevant to life in the North. I’ve been up north for just over 2 years now, and I can tell you, the 9-5 hours are not working. There are a variety of reasons for that, and personally, I think a lot has to do with the seasons. Hunting and fishing is culturally important here, yet when the weather is right (all of 2 months out of the year) you’re still stuck working 9-5. Then, the weather worsens, everyone’s ready to work again for a few months, and then the 24hr dark hits, and the whole town get cranky as heck (again, for about 2 months out of the year where I am). Lather, rinse, and repeat the cycle.
    I think this seriously contributes to the turn over rates – it doesn’t make sense to work much when it’s light out, because you need to provide for your family. Or just enjoy the sun while you can, because you know it won’t last. So you go out anyways and quit or get fired. Turnover is a huge issue up here. I’m not sure how bad YK is though.

    Unfortunately, the big employer is government, which will always be stuck on the 9-5 time frame. “Business” must be conducted. But how much is really getting done? There has to be a solution, and until one is found the North will forever be playing catch-up with the rest of Canada.


    nancyzimmerman Reply:

    Thanks for weighing in, NorthernLass! It seems to me that there should be relatively simple (*relatively* lol!) ways to accommodate the very real situations you just described. I know in my own dep’t (hr, for the record), during the summer if it’s a great day, and if there’s nothing pressing for us, we can take a couple hours off spontaneously as long as we make it up within 2 weeks. I found that flexibility to be a real Plus in my experience with GNWT as an employer.


    Sep 09, 2009
  6. NorthernLass

    Wow, Nancy, that sounds great. Most of us are all part of a union here (Government of Nunavut) maybe that’ll be something we can bring up at our next round of bargining. We do have two (unpaid) “Traditional Activity Days” but that doesn’t account for much.
    For your deptment, is this one of those unwritten rules, or an actual policy?
    Sorry to be so nosey. 🙂


    Sep 11, 2009
  7. @NorthernLass It’s an actual policy. We simply complete a spreadsheet that our manager has, indicating when we take the time off (we do have to check first) then indicating when we make up the time (again, within 2 weeks). Also, it cannot be a form of Annual Leave – it’s truly intended to take advantage of those exceptionally nice summer days when they happen. It’s a good perk!


    Sep 12, 2009
  8. […] Zimmerman writes about a topic near to my heart, Work Life Balance and she wonders whether the 9 to 5 day is an antiquated idea? Depends on whether you get paid for those extra hours, would be my […]


    Oct 05, 2009
  9. I think you can certainly have a work life balance in the new economy. I don’t think for most people that will work out to setting aside exactly 40 hours a week to work. I actually like being able to connect to work when I take days off (or go on an extended vacation). Checking in a bit can help me take care of a few things so problems don’t crop up that then have to be dealt with. And I like being able to stay at home and do an couple hours of work during the weekend instead of having to go into the office. Granted some people don’t like the interaction of work and “life” – I see work as one part of life and it doesn’t have to be isolated from life for me.
    .-= John Hunter´s last blog ..Learn Lean by Doing Lean =-.


    Nov 14, 2009


  1. Canadian Personal Finance Blog » Blog Archive » Random Thoughts: Remembering 9/11

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge