The Higher ED Blog: Is Economic Development 9 to 5 or 24/7?
Jennifer Schnier EcD(F) / February 16, 2016
Those that work in economic development are nimble, creative, social, engaging, and multi-tasking individuals with exceptional communication and presentation skills. They’re also passionate about community development.
Economic developers are professionals (many accredited) who have contributed to the revitalization of communities in Ontario. Generally, their job is to nurture, retain, attract, and advocate on behalf of business. More specifically, this might mean providing support to new business owners, yet it might also mean marketing their community to prospective business developers, investors, and residents. The end goal is to create and lead projects that improve local quality of life, and to develop strategies and policies or deliver programs that support the above activities.
Since the field is relatively new, and the tactics for developing economies are always evolving, economic development departments are often a dumping ground for all sorts of projects that don’t quite fit elsewhere. On top of all this, they are expected to accommodate clients’ schedules. That has definitely meant more evening, more weekends, and more time outside of their traditional role.
How then, with a Monday to Friday, 9-5 work week can an economic development professional adequately reach out to clients, do administrative work, and meet with management, while also maintaining their own work life balance? There isn’t enough time in the day.
The time has come to review traditional work hours and determine how the economic development professional can continue to meet the changing needs of our economy without burning out in the meantime. Meanwhile, how can a new and more flexible model also complement the traditional workplace? What would that model look like?
This is an issue that has been on my mind since 2008. Now that I’m enrolled in the University of Waterloo’s Local Economic Development master’s program, I have an opportunity to explore it. My major research paper will examine the current work conditions of economic developers, and how they have changed over time, and explore tools that employers of economic developers can use to provide greater autonomy and flexibility in their work schedules. I will be reviewing the work of Johan Norberg, Rosabeth Moss Kanter, and Robyn Bews, Emily Klein, and Jason Morwick to name a few. However, I’m most interested in what you, as an economic developer, has to say. Your input will inform my paper, and hopefully help me find ways to improve the work-life balance of economic developers.
If you are an economic development professional based in Ontario, please take a few moments and answer the questions located in the link below.
The results of this survey are anonymous and will be reported in aggregate to prevent individual identification. This project has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through a University of Waterloo Research Ethics Committee.
Economic Development 9-5 or 24/7 Survey (this survey is now closed)
About the author
Jennifer Schnier, Ec.D(F), is completing her Major Research Paper as part of a requirement for Masters in Environmental Studies (Local Economic Development). The purpose of the paper is to explore the workshift of the Economic Development Professional and to define how better to support work-life balance in this growing profession.
Jennifer is the Communications and Economics Officer at Township of Georgian Bay and lives full time in Muskoka with her husband and their five children.
About the series
Higher ED: Insights for the Next Economy is a platform for students, guest speakers, staff and faculty of the University of Waterloo’s professional and graduate economic development programs to share knowledge with the field at large. The series takes works destined for an academic audience and reworks them into a fresh, easy-to-digest blog article.
Established in 1988, the Local Economic Development program is the only master’s program in Canada devoted solely to local economic development. It offers a balance between theory and practice by combining coursework, a major research paper, an internship, and weekly seminars featuring guest speakers. Students are prepared for careers in local, community, or regional economic development.
The Economic Development Program is a nationally-accredited provider of professional training. It delivers certification programs and seminars that offer a deep understanding of the Canadian context in a convenient block format. Peer learning is combined with informative lectures and practical case studies to provide dynamic instruction that is beneficial for junior and senior-level practitioners.