Working From Home After the Pandemic

Written by Posted On Tuesday, 17 August 2021 00:00

Many Canadians have been working from home during the pandemic, and most of them like it – a lot. A recent survey of people who are currently working from home, conducted by the Angus Reid Institute, found that almost half would look for a new job if they were forced to go back to their workplace.

While 39 per cent said they would “roll with it” and go back to the workplace full-time, 25 per cent said they would go back but start looking for a new job, and 19 per cent indicated they would quit immediately rather than go back.

Statistics Canada says that 80 per cent of “new teleworkers” – those who worked outside of the home pre-pandemic but worked most of their hours from home during the week of Feb. 14 to 19 – would prefer to keep working at least half of their hours from home when the pandemic is over. The only group that showed a preference for working outside the home were teachers.

The Angus Reid survey says 37 per cent of respondents anticipate working from home for the foreseeable future; 35 per cent believe they’ll adopt a mix of working at home and going back to the workplace; 11 per cent think they’ll return to their workplace quite soon, 10 per cent are already doing a mix of home and workplace and the remaining seven per cent believe they’ll eventually go back but not for awhile.

Statistics Canada says about 40 per cent of Canadians are in jobs that enable them to work from home. People with higher levels of education are more likely to hold down jobs that allow them to work from home, and women are more likely than men to have that type of job. This is likely because male-dominant jobs such as agriculture or construction usually can’t be performed at home.

“Households with lower levels of education and earnings are the least likely to hold jobs that can be done from home. This finding suggests that the risk of experiencing a work interruption during the pandemic might fall disproportionally on financially vulnerable families,” says Statistics Canada. 

In January 2021, 32 per cent of Canadians were working from home, compared to just four per cent in 2016.

A report by Tahsin Mehdi and René Morissette at Statistics Canada says 90 per cent of new teleworkers say they are at least as productive at home as they were in the workplace. About a third say they get more work done at home, while only 10 per cent admitted to getting less work done. Forty-eight per cent of those who say they are getting more work done say they also work longer hours per day than they did in the past.

The Angus Reid survey showed similar results, with 34 per cent reporting their work productivity was “really great” and 37 per cent saying it was “good”.  Sixty-one per cent of respondents said their mental/emotional state was really great or good.

However, young people didn’t fare as well in the Angus Reid results. In the 18 to 24 age cohort, more than half said their work from home productivity was “awful” or “challenging”. They described their mental health the same way. Among all respondents, 45 per cent said their social life has been challenging and 21 per cent said it was “awful” during the pandemic.

There are signs that the office leasing market is starting to recover, says CBRE. In a recent economic outlook, the company says, “The impetus for the increase in leasing activity levels is the recent surge in vaccinations and the relaxing of restrictions on social interaction and businesses expected to unfold in the summer and fall.” It says economic growth is expected to continue during the second half of the year and “at the same time, workers will return to their workplaces.” 

Can employers force their employees to go back to the office? Howard Levitt, senior partner of LSCS Law, told the Financial Post that yes, they can. Those who refuse can be fired for abandonment, he says. 

There have been reports that companies based in the U.S. are reducing the salaries of those who want to work from home. In Canada, Levitt says companies can offer employees a reduced salary for working at home as long as they still have the option to return to the office at their full salary. 

Happy employees should make for a productive and profitable company. The firm may be able to reduce its employee turnover rate as well as real estate and office overheads. For employees, avoiding the commute into work every day could mean increased job satisfaction and reduced work-family conflict and stress.

But there are also some negatives to working at home, says a recent Fraser Institute report.

“Such potential negative aspects include the possible loss of team-building and corporate culture as well as training and career development that comes from personal interaction,” it says. “Also, concerns can arise over the disproportionate burden faced by women with childcare responsibilities, as well as growing income inequality because low-income individuals cannot often work from home. Concerns can also arise if working from home involves 24/7 constant availability with little opportunity to disengage.”

Rate this item
(0 votes)
Jim Adair

Jim Adair has been writing about Canadian real estate, home building and renovation issues for more than 40 years. He is the former editor of Canada’s leading trade magazine for real estate professionals, as well as several home building, décor and renovation titles. You can contact him at [email protected]

Realty Times

From buying and selling advice for consumers to money-making tips for Agents, our content, updated daily, has made Realty Times® a must-read, and see, for anyone involved in Real Estate.