Holding On to Corporate Values in Unprecedented Times

Amber Mac said it best at CEA’s 2019 Fall Board meeting: “Change has never happened this fast before and it will never, ever be this slow again”. She was right. Every aspect of the electricity sector is continuously evolving. Utilities are not only faced with managing innovative technologies and grid reliability, but also adjusting to ever-changing customer needs.

Little did we know back in November that it is no longer just downed powerlines, thunderstorms or cyber-attacks that can dramatically disrupt the lifestyle that Canadians have grown accustomed to. Health threats, like the COVID-19 pandemic, have shifted our everyday lives, however, electricity has provided us the power to persevere through these new challenges.

Electric utilities provide a vital commodity to the services supporting our communities – from hospitals, to grocery stores, to pharmacies. Members of the Canadian Electricity Association have stayed true to their mission of keeping the lights on and keeping the power flowing from coast-to-coast-to-coast. Electricity-enabled technology and tools have allowed Canadians to stay connected with their families and friends, but also with their co-workers; without the men and women in the field to connect us to the grid, working remotely may not have always been possible. With that being said, CEA’s National Lineworker Appreciation Day—a day when we honour the men and women across Canada who brave difficult and hazardous conditions from snowstorms to tornadoes to wildfires to keep the power flowing in your community—now means more to me than it ever did before.

Approximately 40% of Canadians’ jobs[1]can be done remotely and although we still do not know the extent of the impacts of tele-working on the economy during the pandemic, these arrangements will most likely become a very real part of the “new normal”. And as we fall closer to September, many University students will be keeping up with their studies strictly online. We have yet to fully realize the impact of electricity load demands on the grid.

Working from home for the past 24 weeks has been difficult for many of us. There was no “transition” from working full-time in an office to setting up shop in my bedroom for my workday. For myself, the glory of working in my sweatpants lost its appeal after the first two weeks and settling down to focus became a huge challenge.

But that doesn’t mean that those of us with a responsibility to Canadians everywhere have stopped pushing our sector forward towards a brighter future.

In fact, that is what the electricity sector continues to hold on to: our role as an essential service to our customers during these unprecedented times. Alongside my team, I have had the opportunity to create national social media campaigns warning customers of the increase in scams, and how electric utilities are changing their practices to best suit the current environment.

As I write this, the Canadian Electricity Association office in Ottawa will be transitioning to voluntary return to the workplace with guidelines created based on guidance from the provincial, federal and municipal advice and experts. I am also currently preparing to pack myself up to work remotely from Halifax, Nova Scotia for one month, continuing to work for CEA with a view of the ocean.

If there is one thing I have learned throughout this experience, it is that regardless of where the work is being done, the values of your organization remain true to you.

Although I will be leaving my comfy desk chair at the office for another month, I’ll be taking my laptop and my Corporate Values everywhere I go.

[1] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/45-28-0001/2020001/article/00026-eng.htm