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Returning to work? Many prefer remote office, flex hours: ADP survey

September 2, 2020
By Talent Canada staff

The faster that an employer can provide clarity to workers on future workplace arrangements, the more settled they can be that they want to be part of that future. (RON/Adobe Stock)

As many Canadians head back to their place of work, a new survey by ADP Canada and Maru/Blue indicates a shift in attitude towards the traditional workplace.

A new survey found that 45 percent of working Canadians say they would prefer to work remotely at least three days a week and more than one quarter would prefer to work flex hours.

Respondents, including managers and front-line employees, also said that remote work did not have a significant impact on productivity, quality of work and hours of work.

While over half of employees surveyed (55 per cent) say their employer has continued to allow remote and flexible work throughout COVID-19, it’s clear that employers have an opportunity to embrace flexible work options beyond the pandemic.


The online survey includes results from 1,538 Canadian workers and was completed in August.

Reduced compensation a no-go

Although the findings show strong support for flexible and remote work options, 69 percent of respondents are not willing to accept reduced compensation for the changes, which, prior to the pandemic, were sometimes seen as a perk.

In addition, only four percent of workers said they would consider accepting reduced compensation to work reduced hours, for example, a four-day work week.

Most Canadians surveyed (45 per cent) also feel that remote workers have equal opportunity for job promotion and career advancement.

“It’s clear that employees want to choose how and when they work,” says Heather Haslam, vice-president of marketing at ADP Canada.

“Employers that embrace flexibility within their culture may improve employee engagement, retention and performance. However, flexible work requires the appropriate tools to support collaboration, productivity, workplace culture and engagement in a remote environment.”

Younger workers prefer remote work

The younger generation of workers appear particularly drawn to remote work, with 61 percent of workers aged 18 to 34 saying they prefer to work remotely at least three days a week, compared to 43 percent of workers over 35. Additionally, only 13 percent of workers aged 18 to 34 said their job does not allow remote work, compared to one quarter of workers over 35.

So, what will the workplace look like in five years?

While just under half (44 per cent) of Canadians surveyed do not think the workplace will change drastically, more than one quarter believe their employer will offer more flexible work options.

Additionally, nearly one quarter believe most employees will work remotely in the future and six percent believe the workplace will be entirely virtual.

Those aged 18 to 34 are more likely to believe the workplace will change, compared to other age groups: 44 per cent believe their employer will offer more flexible work options in the next five years, compared to only a quarter of workers over 35.

Returning to work

While over half of Canadians surveyed have already returned to the workplace (53 per cent) most have mixed feelings about going back to their workplace — with some looking forward to returning (13 per cent), others feeling anxious (12 per cent), and some not wanting to return at all (15 per cent).

Of those who were feeling anxious about returning to the workplace or who did not want to return, the majority (73 per cent) said it’s because they would prefer to work remotely.

Over half were also concerned about catching the virus (56 per cent) and worried their employer may not take the necessary steps to protect them (30 per cent) from COVID-19.

Although anxious, results also show most employees (84 per cent) believe their employer has taken the necessary precautions to protect workers from COVID-19.

Over two-thirds of respondents say their employer has increased sanitization and cleaning of workspaces (66 per cent), implemented social distancing measures (64 per cent) or has provided protective barriers and equipment (51 per cent).

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