MONTREAL -- In a year where many Canadians have lost their jobs due to the ongoing pandemic, some spoke out on Labour Day about how the very meaning of work needs to change.

Canadian Labour Congress President Hassan Yussuff said priorities must change in the wake of the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19.

“It's working people that make this economy work and, of course, in that regard we need businesses, but we also need to treat workers fairly and pay them appropriately and give them dignity and respect,” he said.

Yussuff pointed to front-line workers, such as grocery store clerks, delivery truck drivers, nurses and orderlies are often underpaid and have no job security.

“As a country we tell these people they're heroes but we don't treat them like they're heroes,” he said.

Tellent CEO Jennifer Hargreaves said women have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

“They tend to dominate industries like hospitality or tourism or childcare,” she said. “Those industries have been hit particularly hard right now and women are also the primary caregivers in most households.”

Hargreaves works to place women in companies with more flexibility and said employers need to rethink how they measure productivity.

“Shifting away from thinking about productivity as hours worked, like 'nine-to-five in the office, she's productive,' and thinking about output or results and what are they delivering and how are they delivering it,” she said.

As many people who still have jobs continue working from home, Hargreaves said there are opportunities for companies to change how they do things.

But economist Moshe Lander said the new normal is also raising questions about work-life balance.

“Now that work has come into our homes, we need to find that new balance again,” he said. “We need a way to disconnect and really make sure it's effective.”