Benefits & Pensions
No longer a ‘perk’ – Canadians now expect flexible, hybrid work: Survey
More than eight in 10 Canadian workers say flexible work policies impact whether they stay at or leave a job, according to new research from Cisco Canada conducted by Angus Reid. And flexibility in work arrangements is topped only by salary when workers make a decision about which job to take.
That puts it above HR stalwarts like work-life balance; benefits; purpose; and office perks, it found. But there’s a gap between employee and employer thinking on this front, as the majority of employers — 61 per cent — are setting a mandatory number of days to return to the office.
“The future of work is hybrid and global. Organizations that prioritize flexibility and choice as core business imperatives will reap the benefits,” said Shannon Leininger, president, Cisco Canada. “Canada continues to face a tight labour market, and a flexible and inclusive hybrid work model that meets people where they are and where they want to be supports recruitment, talent retention, and overall happiness and wellness.”
Key retention issue
The majority (81 per cent) of Canadian employees said that flexible work policies directly affect whether they stay at or leave a job. An increasing number of employees also stated that hybrid work has positively impacted their work-life balance (79 per cent), with 47 per cent stating it’s had a very positive impact — a “whopping” 16 percentage point increase from the 2021 report’s findings, Cisco said.
Still, 61 per cent of employers surveyed said that they have or plan to implement a mandatory number of days in the office per week and over half (54 per cent) have asked employees to return to the office more often, or plan to. Nearly a third (30 per cent) of employers also said they expect employees to move closer to work if they live too far to commute.
The findings show a clear discrepancy between employee and employer preferences for the future of work.
The survey also found that while most employees prefer hybrid work, there is uneasiness that being away from the office will negatively impact career progression. Nearly half (46 per cent) of employees who choose to be in-person more frequently expect to have more opportunities for engagement in the corporate culture, while 38 per cent say the same for their career growth.
The 2021 results were similar, with 46 per cent of Canadian employees worried that those in the office would have more opportunities for engagement and career growth. This shows that more than a year into working in a hybrid work model, employee concerns persist.
In contrast, employers do not share the same concerns as employees — 49 per cent of employers think that opportunities for career growth will be equal for employees that are primarily in office versus those that are primarily remote. Fewer believe this will be the case for engagement in the corporate culture (35 per cent).
“Leaders and managers are critical to the success of hybrid work and need the proper tools and training to make it inclusive, equitable, and successful. It is incumbent on leaders to role model and define hybrid work for their teams because it is not a one-size-fits all approach,” said Leininger. “By being intentional in how they lead, adapt, and evolve their hybrid work practices, leaders have the opportunity to build a culture that puts employees at the heart.”
Additional findings from the study include:
Concerns on the rising costs of living and hybrid work: As cost-of-living concerns continue, employees may turn to hybrid work strategies to help mitigate costs.
- 36 per cent of surveyed employees say their employer has implemented new benefits to address the rising costs of living concerns, such as a salary increase, improved mental health benefits, and paid days off, among others.
- In contrast, 63 per cent of employers reported having implemented new benefits to address the rising cost of living.
- A previous Cisco study found that employees saved CAD$11,100 annually on average when working in a hybrid model.
Perceptions differ amongst generations: The evolution of the workplace has exacerbated the generational divide. The survey found that different generations have varying perceptions on ‘who’ benefits most from new workplace policies.
- Younger people (18-54) are more likely to evaluate hybrid/remote work positively (86% vs. only 65% of older workers 55+).
- 38 per cent of respondents feel that company policies prioritize certain generations over others.
- 35 per cent of young employees (18-34) feel their company’s policies prioritize Baby Boomers or Gen X the most
- Further, younger employees are more likely than their counterparts to move further away from work.
The survey was conducted by Angus Reid for Cisco Canada. The survey was conducted between December 9 and 15, 2022. There were 1,000 employees and 509 employers surveyed from across Canada.
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