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June 16, 2021

In Brief: Productivity and Preferences While Working from Home

Diana Gerasimov shares recent insights on experiences of working from home.

Diana Gerasimov

June 16, 2021

Vanier Institute’s In Brief Series: Mobilizing Research on Families in Canada

STUDIES:

Mehdi, T., and R. Morissette. 2021. Working from Home: Productivity and Preferences. StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada, no. 00012. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 45-28-0001. Ottawa: Statistics Canada. Link: .

Mehdi, T., and R. Morissette. Working from Home After the COVID-19 Pandemic: An Estimate of Worker Preferences. Statistics Canada. Link: .

Association for Canadian Studies. 2021. Analysis Through Week 62. COVID-19 Social Impacts Network.1


Since March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic’s impacts on Canada’s economy reshaped the work arrangements for much of Canada’s labour force. In March 2021, almost a year into the pandemic, 32% of Canadian workers aged 15 to 69 worked mostly from home, compared with 4% in 2016.

Increased remote working post-pandemic could have significant implications for public transit, traffic, greenhouse gas emissions, occupation of office spaces and housing. How significant these factors are will vary greatly on the proportion of Canadians working from home, the hours of work from home and whether workers’ productivity levels can be maintained throughout these changes.

Employees reporting increased productivity

Among new remote workers who transitioned from working in an office/workplace to working from home during the week of February 14 to 20, 2021:

  • 90% reported being at least as productive as they had been previously.
  • More than 58% reported getting the same done per hour, 32% reported achieving more work per hour and the remaining 10% relayed getting less work completed per hour.

Employees now working from home reporting lower productivity cite multiple barriers

  • 20% identified the lack of social interaction with co-workers as a main cause of decreased productivity.
  • 20% reported child and family care duties contributing to the decline of their productivity.

Remote workers reporting longer hours per day

  • 48% of employees who reported accomplishing more work per hour also said they are working more hours per day than they did previously.
  • 44% of individuals who reported doing less work per hour said they are working more hours per day than they did previously.
  • 35% of all new remote workers reported working longer hours than they did in their usual work environment, while 3% reported working shorter hours.

In a recent study from Statistics Canada, new remote workers who transitioned to the home during the week of February 14 to 20, 2021 were asked how they would prefer working once the pandemic is over.

  • 80% reported they would like to work at least half of their hours from home.
  • 41% said they would prefer working half of their hours from home and the other half outside of the home.
  • 39% said they would prefer working most or all of their hours from home.
  • 20% said they would prefer working most or all of their hours at the office.

A recent survey conducted May 21–23, 2021 by the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) COVID-19 Social Impacts Network found the following on remote work experiences and preferences:

  • 2 in 3 surveyed Canadians (31%) are still working from home.
  • Half of Canadians (49%) have been working from home for almost the entire length of pandemic (approximately 16 months).
  • 82% find the experience to be positive; 64% report that remote working has been easy.
  • Older men are more inclined to want to work fully from home post-pandemic, while younger men prefer splitting work time between the office and home.
  • Among surveyed Canadians who said they would prefer to work at least a few days per month or week from home, nearly 1 in 5 (18%) said their primary reason was so that they can be a better parent to their children (39% cited better productivity and 35% cited no longer having a long commute).
  • Immigrants are more likely (29%) than those born in Canada (17%) to want to continue remote working and not return to the office.
  • Immigrants and those born in Canada equally reported the preference to work a mix of a few days a week in the office or workplace and few days a week at home (40% each).

Conclusions

Despite the list of reasons in favour of working from home, how people will manage work and family responsibilities during a COVID-19 recovery remains unknown. Although the decision of making a permanent transition to remote working relays greatly on employers and managers, and remains undetermined, the aggregated upwards trend in working from home remains worth monitoring for months to come.

Diana Gerasimov holds a bachelor’s degree from Concordia University in Communication and Cultural Studies.


Note

  1. The survey, conducted by the Association for Canadian Studies and Leger on May 21–23, 2021, included approximately 1,600 individuals aged 18 and older who were randomly recruited from LEO’s online panel. Using data from the 2016 Census, results are weighted by gender, age, mother tongue, region, education level and presence of children in the household in order to ensure a representative sample of the population. No margin of error can be associated with a non-probability sample (Web panel). However, for comparative purposes, a probability sample of 1,624 respondents has a margin of error of ±2.43%, 19 times out of 20, while a probability sample of 1,002 respondents has a margin of error of ±3.09, 19 times out of 20.