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On the home front: Remote work may widen inequality in Canada

Many people are managing to work from home, Environics Institute survey shows, but parents of young children, newcomers and young workers face greater challenges

Toronto, April 13, 2021 – As millions of Canadians embark on a second year of working from home in the pandemic, a new Environics Institute survey reveals that the advantages it offers are spread unevenly throughout the workforce. A majority report a mostly positive view of remote work but many grapple with the stress of juggling work and family life or worry that working from home will negatively affect their careers.

A report called Work at home or live at work: The complexities of new working arrangements, reveals that remote work has been more common among office and clerical workers, professionals and executives, according to survey findings. People working in sales, services, trades, transportation and labour were less likely or unable to work from home. Read the complete report here.

Key findings: 

  • More than three out of five people say working from home is easier than they expected, with the same number liking it better and find it less stressful than doing so at their usual workplace.

  • Two out of five expressed concerns about juggling work and family responsibilities while working from home. They feel like they are constantly working with no time for themselves or their families. One in three respondents said they find it impossible to do their jobs well from home.

  • Three in five of those with young children say that while working from home, they feel that they cannot simultaneously be good parents and good workers or employees.

  • Some worry that working from home will negatively impact their career. Young workers aged 18 to 24 (56%), immigrants (44%) (including 60% or recent immigrants), racialized workers (46%), and Indigenous workers (60%) are all more likely than average to express this concern.

  • Many of those experiencing challenges while working from home still feel positive about the arrangement overall. Despite some downsides, seven in ten people working from home say that once the pandemic is over, their employer should show flexibility and allow them to continue working remotely at least a few days a week.
The pandemic has revealed a divide among Canadians in terms of who has the option of working from home. Although many office workers and professionals can work remotely, more economically vulnerable employees must often show up in person at work, which in turn renders them more vulnerable to the virus and to financial stress. It’s crucial that the recovery strategy take steps to mitigate impact on the less securely employed to prevent further disadvantages.
Pedro Barata, executive director of the Future Skills Centre
There is a risk that workers who were already facing barriers in the workplace are now feeling even less connected as they work from home. Employers should take steps now to ensure that any new work arrangements do not simply exacerbate the inequalities that many already faced.
Andrew Parkin, executive director of the Environics Institute
The report shows that for many Canadians, ‘work from home’ has become ‘live at work’. The pandemic has accelerated digitization and new work arrangements, bringing both more flexibility and more demands. The burden of unpaid work – particularly childcare and homeschooling – on parents with young children is highlighted and the stress is taking its toll. We must ensure that the skills agenda addresses the new reality and helps equip both employers and employees with the tools and skills they need to thrive.
Wendy Cukier, founder & academic director, Diversity Institute


The report is based on the Survey on Employment and Skills, conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, in partnership with the Future Skills Centre and Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute. It took place from Nov. 24 to Dec. 22, 2020. Researchers aimed to gain a more in-depth understanding of the pandemic’s future implications for employment and in-demand skills for Canadians. Responses came from 5,351 Canadians aged 18 and up in all provinces and territories.

About the Future Skills Centre

The Future Skills Centre (FSC) is a forward-thinking centre for research and collaboration dedicated to preparing Canadians for employment success. We believe Canadians should feel confident about the skills they have to succeed in a changing workforce. As a pan-Canadian community, we are collaborating to rigorously identify, test, measure, and share innovative approaches to assessing and developing the skills Canadians need to thrive in the days and years ahead. The Future Skills Centre was founded by a consortium whose members are Ryerson University, Blueprint, and The Conference Board of Canada, and is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Program.

About the Environics Institute

The Environics Institute for Survey Research (www.environicsinstitute.org) was established by Michael Adams in 2006 to promote relevant and original public opinion and social research on important issues of public policy and social change.

About Ryerson University’s Diversity Institute

The Diversity Institute conducts and coordinates multi-disciplinary, multi-stakeholder research to create practical strategies to advance skills and employment opportunities for women, racialized people, newcomers, Indigenous people, persons living with disabilities and others. The Diversity Institute is home to unique programs such as the Advanced Digital and Professional Training Program (ADaPT) as well as the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub aimed at building an inclusive innovation ecosystem. 

Media Contact

Eglantine Ronfard
Communications Manager
Future Skills Centre

The author of the report is available for media interviews in English and French.