It’s been almost 13 months (and counting) since the coronavirus pandemic sent millions of Canadians home to work for what was supposed to be the short term. With no end in sight to the new remote-working setting, many white-collar employees have settled into the virtual office environment and are proving they’re just as productive, if not more, when working from home, found a labour force survey by Statistics Canada.
According to the report, by February 2021, 3.1 million Canadians were working from home temporarily in response to the pandemic. Of all new remote workers surveyed, 90 per cent said they were at least as productive at home, accomplishing at least as much work per hour as they would have at their usual place of work, noted the report. And more than half (58 per cent) reported accomplishing about the same amount of work per hour, while roughly one-third (32 per cent) reported accomplishing more work per hour. Notably only 10 per cent said they accomplished less work per hour while working at home than they did previously at their usual place of work.
However, the likelihood of accomplishing more work per hour varied across industries, noted StatsCan. For example, the percentage of employees surveyed who switched to remote working and who reported doing more work per hour was relatively high in public administration (41 per cent) and health-care and social assistance (45 per cent). In contrast, the corresponding percentage amounted to 31 per cent in goods-producing industries.
And regardless of age, educational attainment, marital status, industry, occupation and whether or not they have children, these employees tended to report, to a similar extent, being at least as productive at home as they were in the past at their usual place of work.
As well, employees who reported accomplishing less work per hour while working from home identified different barriers to productivity, said the survey. About one in five of those who reported being less productive cited a lack of interaction with co-workers as the main reason why they accomplished less work per hour. Close to 20 per cent reported having to care for children or other family members. And the remainder faced different challenges, such as accessing work-related information or devices (11 per cent), having to do additional work to get things done (13 per cent), having an inadequate physical workspace (10 per cent) or experiencing difficulty with internet speed (five per cent).
Overall, 80 per cent of employees surveyed who shifted to remote working indicated they’d like to work at least half of their hours from home once the pandemic recedes. In fact, 41 per cent indicated they’d prefer to work about half of their hours at home and the other half outside the home, while 39 per cent would prefer working most (24 per cent), or all (15 per cent), of their hours at home. And 20 per cent would prefer working most (11 per cent) or all (nine per cent) of their hours outside the home. Incidentally, both men and women mentioned they’d like to work at least half of their hours from home in fairly similar proportions.
Additionally, the report also found productivity at home is a strong predictor of preferences for remote working, as employees who reported accomplishing more work per hour while working from home also indicated they’d prefer working most or all of their hours at home much more often (57 per cent) than all other workers (30 per cent). Conversely, 54 per cent of teachers expressed a preference for working most or all of their hours outside the home, which is three times the percentage observed for other workers (18 per cent). In line with the notion that working longer hours might make remote working less attractive, employees who reported working longer hours per day were, even after controlling for several personal and job characteristics, were less likely than others to prefer working most or all of their hours at home.