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Work at home or live at work: The complexities of new working arrangements

The Survey on Employment and Skills, conducted by the Environics Institute, seeks to gain better insight into how Canadians of all backgrounds have been affected by, and are coping with, the disruptions caused by the pandemic.

The results of this wave of the survey is presented in a series of reports, beginning with this one, Work at home or live at work: The complexities of new working arrangements, which focuses on the experience of working from home.

This report examines who has been able to work from home during the pandemic, and workers who has have had to continue to work at their regular workplace. It explores both the positive and negative experiences with working from home, and how these vary among different types of employees. The report’s findings provide an important reminder that the ability to stay home during the pandemic is closely tied to one’s socio-economic situation. They also suggest that the eventual reopening of the economy once the spread of the virus has been contained is unlikely to mean that everything will go back to the way it once was. Employees, particularly those with children at home, may continue to express a desire for working arrangements that are more flexible and family-friendly than those that they experienced before the pandemic took hold

Key Findings

1

The Canadian workforce is evenly split between those who have switched to working from home at least some days during the pandemic, and those who continue to work at their usual workplace.

2

Those working in white-collar jobs or earning higher incomes are much more likely to have been able to protect themselves by working from home. Conversely, Canadians who are more economically vulnerable are also more likely to be vulnerable to the virus due to their need to continue to work outside the home.

3

Experiences of working from home have been more challenging for some workers than others, especially for those with young children at home. Nonetheless, a majority of workers who are working from home agree that they like doing so a lot better than working in their regular workplace; and most hope that they can continue to work from home at least some days once the pandemic is over.

Executive Summary

The second wave of the Survey on Employment and Skills  was conducted in late 2020, as the pandemic’s second wave  gathered momentum in Canada and the number of new  COVID-19 cases steadily increased. The survey investigates  how Canadians have been affected by, and are coping with,  the disruptions caused by the pandemic. This report focuses  on the experience of working from home. It examines who  has been working from home during the pandemic and who  has had to continue to work at their regular workplace; the  challenges and benefits of working from home; and how  these experiences vary among different types of employee. 

The survey shows that the Canadian workforce is evenly  split between those who have switched to working from  home at least some days during the pandemic, and those  who continue to work at their usual workplace. But these  proportions vary significantly across the country: workers  in Ontario are most likely to have switched to working from  home at least some days, followed by those in B.C. and  Quebec; workers are least likely to have moved to a work from-home arrangement in Saskatchewan and Atlantic  Canada. Switching to working from home is also more  common in some of the country’s largest metropolitan areas,  especially Toronto and Vancouver.

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