When the COVID-19 pandemic hit Canada in the spring of 2020, many Canadians were forced to work remotely. Now, many want it to stay that way. A new study by the Future Skills Center at Toronto Metropolitan University surveyed over 6000 Canadians who overwhelming agreed they preferred working from home versus a traditional workplace. This shift has far-reaching implications for the labour market including positive changes for employees and increased pressure for employers to adapt.
The survey indicated that 78% of respondents preferred working from home, an increase from 64% in December 2020. While many workers have complained about the negative impacts of working from home, these remote workers reported more positive experiences than negative experiences. Workers with children, especially mothers, reported very positive outcomes from having the flexibility to work from home.
The survey results are applying pressure to employers who will need to adapt to these changing attitudes by making remote work opportunities a permanent fixture within their workplaces. Otherwise, they will continue to struggle with recruitment and retention of staff.
The labour market will be forever changed by these trends. Workers are searching for jobs that offer remote work and they are changing their lifestyles to take advantage of these opportunities. One in ten workers have changed jobs to a position that offers remote work options. Place based work is on the decline, as workers seek remote opportunities where geography no longer matters.
As we move forward and remote work becomes more popular, there are still many issues that will need to be addressed. Younger workers, those with disabilities and Indigenous workers report that they worry working from home will negatively impact their career. Employers will need to proactively address fairness and equity in the workplace.
They will also need to pay attention to the mental health of their workers. The study found no evidence that working from home during the pandemic resulted in poor mental health but having workers detached from a traditional workplace does require employers to more frequently check in with these staff.
The pressure on employers and managers has never been more intense and it has led to a significant surge in retirements. The pandemic has led to more extreme labour market shortage in many sectors. Many employers have adapted their hiring strategies, including reducing educational requirements and increasing wages for new hires by as much as ten percent.
Although the full effect on the labour market is yet to be determined, there is no doubt that remote work is here to stay. Too many employees like it to reverse the trend.
The Future Skills Center The shift to remote work (fsc-ccf.ca)
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