Popularity of working from home will be vaccine-resistant, poll suggests

For Canadians who are used to working inside an office, the COVID-19 pandemic provided a serious challenge.

In April and May, most workplaces had no choice but to  shut down. Employees had to download a series of tools and figure out ways to carry on with their duties from home. Lower rates of infection in the summer allowed some workers to go back to the office, but many have chosen to remain at home until a vaccine is available.

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Research Co. and Glacier Media touched base with Canadians who are working from home – instead of at their regular workplace – to see how they are doing after months of handling family and labour from the same venue. The results show that Canadians have grown fond of their home offices, with many expecting to maintain this opportunity once the pandemic is a thing of the past.

Back in April, 65% of Canada’s “home workers” said they hoped to be able to work from more often once the COVID-19 outbreak has passed. Seven months later, the proportion has increased to 80%, including 84% of women and 84% of Ontarians.

The fear of being able to fulfil duties from afar has also subsided. Four in five “home workers” (80%) say that working from home has been easier than they originally thought, up from 62% in April.

Part of this apparent satisfaction with the state of affairs is connected with the way companies have behaved. More than three in four “home workers” (78%) say their employer is perfectly equipped for them to work from home, up nine points since April. In addition, 89% feel their company trusts they are doing their work from home, also up nine points since the early stages of the pandemic.

In spite of these glowing reviews to the “new normal,” some offerings of the modern workplace are not being forgotten by Canadian “home workers.” Two-thirds (68%) acknowledge that they miss interacting with other people at their regular office or workplace, down seven points since April. Men (73%) and those aged 18 to 34 (also 73%) are more likely to wax nostalgic about their office mates.

There are some significant regional differences on this question. While only 61% of Atlantic Canadians miss their co-workers, the proportion rises to 64% in Ontario, 68% in Quebec, 70% in Alberta, and 75% in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. British Columbia is the undisputed champion of affable workplaces, with 86% of “home workers” in this province longing for water cooler banter.

Canada’s “home workers” may have already noticed a reduction in their transportation expenditures. Some did not renew their transit passes, and the savings in fuel and parking for drivers should also be noticeable. Still, the absence of a commute is a complex matter. While 47% of “home workers” say they miss travelling to and from their regular office or workplace, a very similar proportion (49%) do not.

Our patience to get from home to the office appears to wear thin as we age. While 54% of “home workers” aged 18 to 34 miss the daily commute, the proportion drops to 43% among those aged 35 to 54 and to 34% for those aged 55 and over. “Home workers” in British Columbia and Atlantic Canada are the most likely to say they miss their commute (50% each), while Albertans are at the bottom in this category (37%).

In April, 46% of Canadian “home workers” told us that they were having a difficult time working due to distractions at home. At the time, schools were closed, entertainment options were scarce and our collective psyche was fixated on messages from the prime minister, premiers and provincial health authority representatives.

In December, with the kids inside classrooms and some sports leagues operating with only minor hitches, we continue to see 46% of “home workers” who are finding it tough to concentrate on their allotted duties. Quebecers (57%), men (51%) and “home workers” aged 18 to 34 (54%) are more likely to admit to falling to the temptation of television or relying on their company-issued computer for something other than work.

Now that the vaccines are on the way, Canadian companies will need to prepare for a work life that will be decidedly different. The pandemic led to major changes in the allocation of office space, in large part as an effort to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Canadians have proven that they can get their work done from home, know that their employer has confidence in them and wish that the return to normalcy will allow them to continue to avoid the office – at least on some occasions.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co.

 

Results are based on an online study conducted from December 2 to December 6, 2020, among 803 Canadian adults who are currently working from home instead of their regular office. The data has been statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region. The margin of error, which measures sample variability, is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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