It’s a new era for Calgary

WORKshift, an organization I started at Calgary Economic Development 8 years ago, has grown to be Canada’s leading authority on flexible work. Our mission is to support organizations and cities across the country as they seek to understand and adopt new ways of working. WORKshift has been a catalyst for change, helping many employers and employees embrace the idea that work is not a place you go, but a thing you do.

Calgary leadership

Organizations in Calgary were the first to embrace WORKshift, not because it was born here, but as a way to compete in a global war for talent and optimize the use of their valuable downtown office space during a period of amazing growth. The promise of WORKshift for companies in Calgary was simple: “a strategy to survive the frenetic growth of your business”.  (Raise your hand if you miss those days. Me too.)

It wasn’t long before several cities, each with their unique challenges, saw the opportunity WORKshift presented. For some, it was a way to reduce strain on roads as they built LRTs and renovated bridges. Another used this Calgary innovation to help welcome the world for the PanAm Games.

We spent a lot of time taking our Calgary-born initiative on the road, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. They like us, they really like us. We’ve still got work to do, but I believe Canadians are well-positioned to lead the way in adapting to the changing nature of work.

New challenges, new opportunity

Meanwhile, the challenges for our city have shifted, bringing with them new opportunities for Calgary to lead through innovation.

Calgary Economic Development had the foresight to support WORKshift for many years. When a request for resiliency funding was taken to City Council, it was only natural that WORKshift would play a role and, in turn our Talent Hub strategy was born.

There have been some strange misconceptions about what this means, so I would like to set the record straight. The promise is simple: the Talent Hub will help uskeep our people and export the talent. We live in a fortunate time – a time when project functions can be performed virtually. Our work will include partnering with the private sector to identify pockets of talented Calgarians and then matching them with talent needs in other regions, like Silicon Valley, Vancouver, New York- and beyond.

Our role at Calgary Economic Development is to market our talent internationally, to put Calgary on the world map as a hub for expertise. To keep people in the city they so dearly love. To help talent apply their skills to new industries, to support diversification, and to encourage people to congregate in co-work spaces in the downtown core, all while creating a buzz of excitement, optimism and community.

Maybe you’re still not convinced. You might be asking “how does this apply beyond the rhetoric?”  A Calgary leader, Alistair Shepherd-Cross, Founder of Teamit has been working to place local Calgary tech talent on exciting projects beyond our city limits. 

Here’s what he says about remote work.

“Nowadays you really can work for anyone anywhere in the world and you can do it from your home base in Calgary.  Remote work is growing rapidly and is being embraced by forward thinking organizations as a key component of their hiring strategy.  The constant search for talent has driven companies to look outside of their local geographic areas and with rapid advancements in seamless communication technologies such as Skype, Slack and Zoom (to name a few) whether you are in Calgary, Vancouver, Red Deer or Pincher Creek is somewhat irrelevant these days.”

Alistair’s Calgary-based company Teamit has been targeting companies in the resource starved, price inflated market of Silicon Valley.  They are reminding that market that Calgary offers many attractive options including a highly educated, motivated workforce that are equal to their US counterparts- with no language or cultural barriers, similar time zones, accessibility and a 30 - 40% saving on resourcing costs. 

“Not only does Teamit focus on the remote workforce but constructs teams that have all worked together before and have the secret micro culture that makes them elite high performing units. It’s a powerful combination and one that is really resonating with our friends across the border. “

“This model gives Calgarians access to new technologies, verticals & domains that don’t exist here.  Keeping them relevant and critically keeping them in Calgary” said Shepherd-Cross.

“It’s time for all of us to think bigger and broader and to embrace the world of remote work rather than view it with suspicion. It’s here, it’s the future.”

So to dispel a common belief, workshifting does not mean working from home or teleworking. Thankfully, it means much more. workshifting means we can think about work differently than we could in 1982.

And that alone can be a game changer for Calgary.

A version of this post appeared originally on



BY Robyn Bews

Director, Sales & Sector Development

Trade, Investment & Attraction


Robyn has been the driving force behind WORKshift since it was established 2009 and grew into a national program. She co-authored the book WORKshift. Robyn is a graduate of Acadia University, before joining us her career included work in marketing with TELUS Communications and the United Nations.

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