Over two-thirds (66 per cent) of Canadian benefits plan members said they feel less connected to their co-workers and employers over the past year since shifting to remote working amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to the 2021 Benefits Canada Healthcare Survey.

That number rose for respondents who said they aren’t satisfied with their jobs (73 per cent), they have a high level of stress (74 per cent), they work almost exclusively from home (76 per cent), they work in an education or daycare setting (76 per cent) and they have poor personal health (77 per cent).

“A hybrid workforce absolutely is not going to be one size fits all,” said Loretta Kulchycki, an advisory board member and vice-president of product, artificial intelligence and digital strategy at Canada Life Assurance Co., in the report. “Access to both in-person and virtual-care benefits options and mental-health supports will continue to be important to support employees as the work environment continues to evolve.”

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Indeed, members who expressed they were experiencing high levels of stress were also much more likely to report being more productive at the workplace (49 per cent) than at home (23 per cent), as were those who said they’re caregivers for children (41 per cent versus 24 per cent who aren’t) or ageing parents (38 per cent versus 19 per cent).

However, 39 per cent of respondents who are working from home at least part of the time due to the pandemic said they’re equally productive at home or in the workplace, 35 per cent said they feel more productive in the office compared to just under a third (27 per cent) who said they’re more productive at home.

Among plan sponsor respondents, close to half (45 per cent) said their employees are most productive working at the office, while a third (31 per cent) said they’re more productive at home. Only 24 per cent said their employees are equally productive at home or in the work­place.

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Although more women than men felt strongly about being more productive at home (33 per cent compared to 20 per cent, respectively), men were more likely to report they’re equally productive in both locations (44 and 34 per cent, respectively).

When presented with a list of possible disadvantages of working from home, plan members most often cited lack of separation between their work and home environments (46 per cent), too much sitting/inactivity (46 per cent) and feelings of isolation (41 per cent), followed by too much screen time (39 per cent), longer work hours (28 per cent), lack of home office setup (26 per cent), poor eating habits (26 per cent), working outside usual hours (25 per cent) and decreased work-life balance (25 per cent). Just 10 per cent indicated they found no disadvantages to working from home.

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