British Columbia

Most Canadians want to keep flexible workplace, but many worry remote work will hinder career: survey

A new survey highlights tensions between desire for flexibility to work remotely and concerns working away from the office will impact career opportunities.

77% say flexibility in work location and hours directly influences whether they plan to stay in a job

Amanda Thomas, senior manager of internal and employee communications at Coast Capital Savings, works from home in Coquitlam, B.C., on Oct. 27. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

Canadians are eager to make remote work part of their post-pandemic lives, but many are concerned that being away from the office will limit their career opportunities, according to a new study.

In a survey conducted by Angus Reid for Cisco Canada, nearly half of the 1,012 respondents — 46 per cent — expect those who go back to in-person work will have more opportunities for career growth than those who continue to work remotely. 

That concern is even more pronounced among younger employees, with 56 per cent of those in the 18-34 age range worried about the impact on their career.

At the same time, 77 per cent of all respondents said flexibility when it comes to work location and hours directly influences whether they plan to stay in a job.

The survey also suggests 60 per cent of Canadian workers want employers to put more emphasis on work-life balance and wellness, combined with more flexibility in their work hours.

About 70 per cent of respondents in B.C. said remote work has had a positive impact on their work-life balance. 

Amanda Thomas has been working from home in Coquitlam, B.C., for more than a year. She said while she misses seeing her colleagues at Coast Capital Savings in person, the flexibility has been good for her family.

She says she will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future.

"I personally take it on myself to advocate for myself and to make it known what I'm working on and how much value I'm bringing to the organization," she said.

Ania Cox, chief people officer with Coast Capital, said it's up to managers to check in with staff to ensure their needs are being met. 

"With this move to having a much more flexible workforce, we've also been very thoughtful about what do we need to provide to our employees and how do we support our leaders to be able to lead different types of teams as well, so people continue to feel included," she said.

The survey shows 72 per cent of workplaces in Canada will stick with remote work or create some sort of hybrid model that allows employees to work from home sometimes and go into the office when needed. 

About 36 per cent of workplaces in B.C. have already implemented hybrid work, according to the survey. 

British Columbians are currently least likely to work remotely compared to residents in other provinces. 64 per cent of B.C. respondents are working from home, whereas 74 per cent are doing so in Ontario, 76 per cent in Quebec, and 66 per cent in Alberta.

The data from this survey was collected by Angus Reid for Cisco Canada on Oct. 7-12, 2021 from 1,012 respondents across Canada who are working remotely or hybrid. For comparison purposes only, a sample of this size would yield a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

With files from Janella Hamilton