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The shift to remote work: How workers in Canada are adapting to working from home

The Survey on Employment and Skills has been tracking experiences with working from home since 2020. The latest wave of the survey, conducted in the spring of 2022, finds that these experiences have become more positive over the course of the pandemic. The majority of those who have been working from home say they prefer this arrangement and want it to continue once the pandemic is over. And most of those who want to continue to work remotely prefer to do so on a regular basis, rather than occasionally.

This report is based on data from the fourth wave of the Survey on Employment and Skills and is based on a survey conducted by the Environics Institute for Survey Research, in partnership with the Future Skills Centre and the Diversity Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University.

A person working at a desk with a laptop and headphones on.

Key insights

78% of respondents agree that they like working from home a lot better than in their regular workplace (among those who were working from home at least some days in the past three months)

The proportion agreeing that they like working from home a lot better than working in their regular workplace increased from 64 percent in December 2020 to 78 percent in March-April 2022

In the case of those with children under the age of five, the proportion worrying that working from home will have a negative impact on their career declined by 16 points, from 63 percent in December 2020 to 47 percent in March- April 2022.

Executive Summary

In early 2022, almost one in two employed Canadians worked from home at least some days. Working from home due to the pandemic was more common among people working in office or clerical positions or who are professionals or executives, those with a university education, and those earning higher incomes.

For those working from home during the pandemic, experiences continue to be more positive than negative. Moreover, between late 2020 and early 2022, those working from home became more likely to report positive experiences, and less likely to report negative ones. This is the case both for men and women, as well as for workers employed in different occupations. In the case of parents, experiences of working from home have also become a little more positive (or less negative) since the earlier stages of the pandemic; this change is especially notable in the case of mothers.

While overall, concern about the potential impact of working from home on careers has declined, this concern remains higher than average among younger workers, workers with a disability, and Indigenous Peoples.

The survey also provides evidence that some workers have begun to choose jobs that offer the possibility of working from home, or to reorganize their lives to take advantage of new possibilities offered by remote work. Slightly more than one in ten workers say that, since the start of the pandemic, they have changed jobs and found a new job that is easier for them to do while working from home. And about one in ten have moved to a different community because they now have the option to work from home. These choices are more common for younger workers and those working part-time, and less common for those who are more settled in their careers. They are also more common for those who identify as Indigenous, and for those with a disability that occasionally limits their activity.

Among those who have been working from home, and who want to continue doing so, a plurality would prefer to keep working from home almost every day, and most (two in three) would prefer to do so at least two to three days a week. Less than one in three wish to work from home only occasionally. The preference for working at home most days, rather than occasionally, varies significantly among different groups, however. The most notable difference is by age: younger workers are much less likely to prefer working from home on a regular basis. The preference for working from home on a regular basis is higher among women, compared to men, and among those with no children in their households, compared to those with children.

Finally, there is no evidence that the experience of working from home during the pandemic is associated with poorer mental health. In fact, the opposite is true: those who have been working at their regular place of work in early 2022 are somewhat more likely to report poorer mental health than those who have been working remotely. This difference is more pronounced for younger workers: among those age 18 to 29, those who have continued to work in their regular place of work report poorer mental health, and are more likely to feel anxious, lonely or depressed, compared to those who have been working from home.

Employers and managers will need to adapt to the preference for working from home among many workers, while managing the implications for fairness and equity in the workplace (as the option of remote work continues to be more available to those in white-collar occupations). And they will need to be attentive to employee well-being, not only for those working off-site, but for those not working from home but who may now be less directly connected to many of their colleagues.

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