Work from home decreasing in Canada, as U.S. moves to make it permanent: surveys

The Canadian workforce is still undecided on the longevity of the shift to working from home, but across the border U.S. employers are increasingly making it a permanent fixture in their office policies.

According to Statistics Canada’s latest labour force survey, the proportion of Canadians who worked from home during the pandemic decreased very slightly, from 26.4 per cent in August to 25.6 per cent in September 2020.

Meanwhile, a survey of the U.S. workforce by publishing company getAbstract found an 18 percentage point increase between April (20 per cent) and September (38 per cent) in employers opting to make remote working options permanent. Indeed, the U.S. survey showed a nine percentage point increase in respondents who said they want to shift permanently to a remote working policy after the end of the pandemic, up from 48 per cent in April 2020.

Read: Pandemic blurring work-life lines a recipe for employee burnout

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that widespread adoption of remote work is not going to be a temporary phenomenon during COVID,” said Andrew Savikas, chief strategy officer at getAbstract, in a press release.

The beginning of the shutdown saw five million Canadians work remotely in April, including 3.3 million more than usual, according to the Statistics Canada survey. However, the transition to working from home also came with fresh challenges to balancing work responsibilities with family life and the number of remote workers has since declined slightly to 4.2 million in September.

Notably, Canadians who worked remotely ended up working longer hours on average per week (37.6 hours), including more unpaid overtime hours on average (1.6 hours) than those who went to a workplace outside of the home (35.6 hours) and who worked unpaid overtime hours (0.7 hours).

Read: Head to head: Should remote working continue after the pandemic?

Although 89 per cent of the U.S. workforce reported feeling isolated, disconnected and/or distracted when working remotely, employers and employees alike are growing increasingly supportive of remote work.

“As the pandemic drags on, employees and employers are embracing remote work, finding solutions and getting training to make it easier and laying the groundwork for this to be a permanent change post-pandemic,” said Savikas.