During the COVID-19 pandemic, many more Canadians were working from home and this has had a lasting impact on Canada’s workplaces. Since the pandemic, even after life has returned to normal forms, many companies are offering remote work options if at all possible.

In this article, we explore the statistics around working from home in Canada including how Canadians feel about working remotely and what impact more people working from home has, for example, on carbon emissions. 

Working From Home Statistics for Canadians

  • Around 5 million Canadians worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • 90% of remote workers report consistent or higher productivity rates working remotely, as compared with in-office work
  • 41% of remote workers would prefer to work half their weekly hours remotely
  • 39% of remote workers would rather work remotely for most, if not all, of their time
  • 37-48% of all paid jobs in advanced economies, such as Canada or the United States, can be performed remotely
  • 8% of businesses are strongly considering consolidating their physical office spaces due to remote working options
  • 37% of remote workers are over the age of 55
  • 54% of gig workers believe they are working more than before the pandemic
 

During the pandemic, approximately 5 million Canadians worked from home

Twenty percent of the Canadian workforce working remotely is an astounding increase from pre-pandemic numbers, as, in 2016, only four percent of Canadian employees worked from home. However, the latest numbers are still significantly lower when compared to the start of the pandemic. In April 2020, an estimated 40% of Canadian employees worked from home. Urban centers, such as Toronto and Montreal, have the largest share of remote workers, due to their abundance of finance jobs.

Over a third of Canadian jobs can be done remotely

Though not every job can be performed virtually, an estimated 40 percent of all Canadian jobs can be effectively completed from home. Remote work feasibility drastically differs based on industry type. For example, about 85% of workers in finance and insurance can work remotely, compared to only 4% of those in the agricultural fields.

Around 90 percent of Canadians feel as productive or more productive working from home

An overwhelming majority of Canadian workers have seen their productivity increase, or stay the same when compared to per hour to in-office work. Within the 90 percent, approximately 41.2% of respondents claimed to have seen increased productivity rates. For those that reported decreases in productivity, the greatest contributing factors include childcare, inadequate work environments, inaccessibility to all necessary work documents, weak internet connection, and lack of social interaction.

Eighty percent of new remote workers would prefer to continue working remotely at least half of the time

The new normal has led many to wonder what workforce expectations will entail after the pandemic ceases. Employees have noted working from home has increased their workweek flexibility, due to the lack of commute time and greater time spent with family. Workers have also reported higher job satisfaction, stronger autonomy, and money saved, due to less gasoline consumption and reduced need for daycare.

A Statistics Canada report showed that if given the option, 80 percent of new remote workers would want to spend at least half of their weekly hours working from home. About 40 percent reported they would rather spend a greater majority if not all, hours working remotely. Only about twenty percent opted for a full return to in-office work. Those who prefer an in-office schedule have cited a lack of social interaction and reduced possibilities of workplace advancement as reasons to leave behind remote working.

Individuals with higher education are more likely to work from home

About 58% of workers, with at least a bachelor’s degree, were reported to have spent the majority of their time working at home, compared to 7% of workers, who did not have a high school diploma. A vast majority of service jobs require in-person shifts, compared to white-collar office jobs which allow remote work. As workers with less of an educational background (high school diploma or lower) are more likely to be working outside the home, they are at higher risk of COVID-19 exposure as well as employment insecurity.

Over 50 percent of teachers prefer to work in the classroom

About 54% of surveyed teachers reported that they preferred completing their work outside the home, about three times more than other workers. Of the professions surveyed, teachers had the largest percentage opting in for more in-office work. Virtual teaching has been met with resistance due to straying attention spans, decreases in collaborative work, and disruptions within the natural teacher-student dynamic. Environmental and socio-economic factors also prevent children from effectively partaking in the school day.

The Impact

Remote work cuts down on carbon emissions due to a reduction in commute times.

As more jobs allow part-time or full-time remote work, commute times have been reduced for thousands of employees. One positive impact of the pandemic’s restructuring of the labour force has been the possible reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The reduction in the amount of daily commuting has the potential to reduce traffic congestion and demand for public transport.

An Economic and Social Report from Statistics Canada predicted a complete transition into remote work could reduce annual greenhouse emissions of about 8.6 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. Though the study predicts trends based on full remote work transitioning, the report’s findings provide a strong baseline for interpreting the possible positive impacts stemming from any substantial increase in remote work.

Remote employees report a greater level of work flexibility and productivity.

Only ten percent of employees reported accomplishing less work per hour, at home, when compared to in-office. Remote work has also allowed thousands to reclaim some of their daily schedule for personal use, as time normally used for commuting can now be swapped in for more reenergizing morning and after-work routines. On average, remote workers have saved an hour on commute times.

However, some of the pandemic’s negative effects on the workforce must also be acknowledged in assessing the  strengths of remote work, as many have reported burnout. One survey showed that about 40 percent of respondents felt their work responsibilities have impeded other areas of their lives. The lack of separation between one’s private and public life has made it difficult for some to draw boundaries and regulate their workloads.

Summary

To best mitigate risk amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work became an essential part of the Canadian labour force. The shift to teleworking has also redefined work expectations, both by employees and employers. While a full transition to teleworking is far from realistic, the increased interest in remote work by employees has made some employers transition certain roles into hybrid settings even after life has returned to normal after the pandemic. in

Frequently Asked Questions

As of May 2021, 5 million Canadians were working from home, accounting for roughly 20% of the Canadian workforce. This is a drastic change from 2016, when only 4% of Canadians worked from home.

An overwhelming majority of Canadian workers have seen their productivity increase, or stay the same when compared to per hour to in-office work. Within the 90% of Canadians who prefer working from home, approximately 41.2% of respondents claimed to have seen increased productivity rates.

Though not every job can be performed virtually, an estimated 40% of all Canadian jobs can be effectively completed from home. Remote work feasibility drastically differs based on industry type. For example, about 85% of workers in finance and insurance can work remotely, compared to only 4% of those in the agricultural fields.

About 58% of workers, with at least a bachelor’s degree, were reported to have spent a majority of their time working at home, compared to 7% of workers, who did not have a high school diploma. A vast majority of service jobs require in-person shifts, compared to white-collar office jobs allowing remote work.

As more jobs allow part-time or full-time remote work, commute times have been reduced for thousands of employees. One positive impact of the pandemic’s restructuring of the labour force has been the possible reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The reduction in the amount of daily commuting has the potential to reduce traffic congestion and demand for public transport.

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