Canadian Manufacturing

Canadians are on the edge of a new world of work: study

COVID-19 accelerates need for flexible work arrangements and digital transformation

September 15, 2020  by CM Staff

Public sector employees particularly impacted with decreased access to necessary tools PHOTO: Getty

TORONTO — According to PwC’s Canadian workforce study, we’re on the edge of a new world of work and this change will bring opportunities to reimagine collaboration, innovation and project delivery.

The study spoke to more than 1500 employees and 500 employers across the country, looking at perceptions of productivity and effectiveness during the COVID-19 pandemic and considers how willing Canadians are to return to the office.

“The ways in which Canadians are working together is becoming more fluid. It’s time for organizations to adapt and maximize the potential of their people as we move towards a new world of work,” said Jean McClellan, national consulting people and organization leader, PwC Canada, in a prepared statement.

Prior to the pandemic, 82% of Canadian employees worked primarily from an office. That number is down to 27%, according to the survey. While 78% of employers expect a partial return to the workplace in the next three months, only one in five employees say they want to go back to the office full time. The majority want the flexibility to pick between their home and the office as needed.

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The top two challenges for nearly half of the employees surveyed was maintaining day-to-day work productivity and finding the right work-life balance, especially for those with kids. Additionally, communicating with coworkers in the absence of traditional in-person interaction has been an adjustment. Employers will need to consider a business strategy that meets the evolving needs of their company, while also considering the changing needs of their people.

According to the survey, two-thirds of Canadian employees reported being provided with upskilling opportunities. This access to upskilling showed increased confidence in the organization’s leadership as well as increased productivity when compared to those who didn’t receive upskilling opportunities.

“As remote working environments become the new norm, the need for digital upskilling is heightened. This was clearly demonstrated in our survey findings. Forty percent of employees who were provided upskilling opportunities, such as learning a new digital program, prior to COVID-19 experienced a jump in productivity during the pandemic,” said McClellan.

Most employees and employers feel their company has the necessary tools for employees to succeed in their position, but this varies among industries. Looking at the public sector, for example, workers in education, government and health care reported lower access to the tools they need to do their jobs amidst the pandemic compared to other industries. The financial services industry experienced the highest boost in output, with almost half (46%) of employees reporting increased productivity during the pandemic.

People in Ontario and Quebec have a greater preference for remote work, likely in part because of congestion and commuting in the GTA and Montreal areas. Ontarians are the least comfortable returning to their workplace in the next few months. Meanwhile, workers in Alberta and Atlantic Canada are the most comfortable returning to their workplace in the next three months.