The overwhelming majority of Canadians who were forced to switch to teleworking because of the pandemic say they have been as productive working from home as they were in the office, according to a new report by Statistics Canada.
In its newly released study Working from home: Productivity and preferences, Canada’s national statistics agency found that 90 per cent of new teleworkers reported accomplishing at least as much work per hour at home as they did prior to the pandemic at their usual place of work.
More than half (58 per cent) reported accomplishing about the same amount of work per hour, while roughly one-third (32 per cent) reported accomplishing more work per hour. The remaining 10 per cent mentioned that they accomplished less work per hour while working at home.
While the vast majority of new teleworkers reported being at least as productive at home as they were in the past, several of them ended up working longer hours per day at home than they did when they were on the clock at the office, the study found.
More than a third of people working from home during the pandemic reported working longer hours. In contrast, only three per cent of all people working from home reported working shorter hours.
Those who reported being less productive at home than in the office listed the main reasons for the fall in productivity as having to care for children and family members, difficulties accessing the necessary information from home, having to do additional work, lack of adequate work space and slow Internet connection.
In a sign that the pandemic could have a lasting impact on Canadians’ work arrangements even after lockdowns and restrictions are lifted, 80 per cent of new teleworkers indicated that they would like to work at least half of their hours from home once the pandemic is over, the study found.
In fact, 15 per cent of teleworkers said they would prefer to work from home all the time once the pandemic is over.
The remaining 20 per cent would prefer working most or all of their hours outside the home.
Rethinking productivity monitoring
Chris Dulny, Chief Innovation Officer at PwC Canada, said workforce flexibility and autonomy will be one of the main themes as businesses plan for the post-pandemic period.
“Sure, there is a pull to be back in the office for certain things, but I think people have recognized that there is greater balance in their life, so they want to have the freedom to choose a little bit and I think organizations are going to have to think about that seriously, how they give people that flexibility,” Dulny told Radio Canada International.
The telework experience during the pandemic has shown that business leaders will need to rethink the way they monitor productivity, he added.
“I think managers are looking at it and thinking about productivity in a different way,” Dulny said. “Employees can have some autonomy, have some flexibility, they can manage their work day in a different way.”
Businesses will have to think hard about finding the right work and home life balance for their employees with these more flexible arrangements, he added.
Reimagining the office
“I think the result is a mix of the remote home experience with an office that has a different purpose, perhaps, will give people the choice to kind of balance out the productivity that they are working through,” Dulny said.
That will also require a fundamental rethink by many businesses of what the office is used for, Dulny said.
The pandemic has proven that you do not need to be in the office if your day is predominantly heads down, individual work in a quiet space, he said.
“Like why go through the commute to come into the office to do that?” Dulny said. “So if the purpose of the office is not that and we are at the same time missing a level of collaboration and connection and the watercooler conversation, then isn’t the latter the new purpose of the office?”
Getting this issue right could boost the competitiveness of Canadian business vis-à-vis their international competitors, Dulny said.
“I would say Canada has a moment here if leaders take advantage of this and think openly about what habits have been broken and how they can drive change in their organization for the better,” Dulny said. “Some of those could be based on cultures they want to drive in their organizations, some of those certainly could be in the digital arena.”