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Remote work may widen inequality in Canada: survey


As millions of Canadians embark on a second year of working from home in the pandemic, a new Environics Institute survey reveals that the advantages it offers are spread unevenly throughout the workforce.

A majority report a mostly positive view of remote work but many grapple with the stress of juggling work and family life or worry that working from home will negatively affect their careers.

“The pandemic has revealed a divide among Canadians in terms of who has the option of working from home,” said Pedro Barata, executive director of the Future Skills Centre.

“Although many office workers and professionals can work remotely, more economically vulnerable employees must often show up in person at work, which in turn renders them more vulnerable to the virus and to financial stress. It’s crucial that the recovery strategy take steps to mitigate impact on the less securely employed to prevent further disadvantages.”

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The report called Work at home or live at work: The complexities of new working arrangements, reveals that remote work has been more common among office and clerical workers, professionals and executives, according to survey findings.

This report is based on the second wave on a survey conducted in November and December 2020, with a sample of 5,351 Canadian adults.

People working in sales, services, trades, transportation and labour were less likely or unable to work from home.

Work 4.0: The future of work is hybrid, personalized

Key findings include:

  • More than three out of five people say working from home is easier than they expected, with the same number liking it better and find it less stressful than doing so at their usual workplace.
  • Two out of five expressed concerns about juggling work and family responsibilities while working from home. They feel like they are constantly working with no time for themselves or their families. One in three respondents said they find it impossible to do their jobs well from home.
  • Three in five of those with young children say that while working from home, they feel that they cannot simultaneously be good parents and good workers or employees.
  • Some worry that working from home will negatively impact their career. Young workers aged 18 to 24 (56 per cent), immigrants (44 per cent) (including 60 per cent of recent immigrants), racialized workers (46 per cent), and Indigenous workers (60 per cent) are all more likely than average to express this concern.
  • Many of those experiencing challenges while working from home still feel positive about the arrangement overall. Despite some downsides, seven in ten people working from home say that once the pandemic is over, their employer should show flexibility and allow them to continue working remotely at least a few days a week.

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