By Max Singh
“The easing of many public health restrictions across Canada since the summer of 2021, the number of Canadians who worked from home was 4.2 million. In 2016 only 4% worked at home.”
“Homeworkers report challenges, whether this means having to care for children and elderly relatives while trying to work or facing issues when it comes to experiencing frustrating technology problems and defining boundaries between home and work.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, working from home seemed like a beautiful perk that workers such as freelance journalists and techies enjoyed. You might know some of them who seemed to spend their workday in sweatpants and pajamas while sipping coffee, bleary-eyed in front of a computer monitor.
There is no doubt home working is on the rise. Statistics Canada says the share of Canadians working from home among workers aged 15 to 69 who worked at least half their usual hours was 23.8% in October 2021. Despite the easing of many public health restrictions across the country since the summer of 2021, the number of Canadians who worked from home in 2021 was 4.2 million. In 2016 only 4% worked at home. (Statscan figures.)
According to a recent survey conducted by IWG – the International Workspace Group and leading global flexible workspace provider – more than half of employees globally now work outside the main office for half the week in business lounges, remote offices, or at home. Of course, there are advantages to working from home: maintaining a healthy work-life balance is vital, and a third of remote workers define commuting to work as ‘the worst part of their day. Homeworkers also cite fewer distractions (75%), fewer interruptions from colleagues (74%), and minimal office politics (65%) were also noted as reasons to choose to work from home. Add the comfort of being in familiar surroundings, enjoying more significant control over the work environment, and avoiding exposure to illness and stress. Employers report that productivity from working remotely has remained the same despite initial anxiety and even increased.
But the demise of the office is not forthcoming yet. Homeworkers report challenges, whether this means caring for children and elderly relatives while trying to work or facing issues when experiencing frustrating technology problems and defining boundaries between home and work.
To effectively work remotely, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety suggests the following: “Key requirements include space or room where it is easy to concentrate—preferably separate from other living areas and no television to distract. A level of security must be present as required by the workplace. Household members who will understand you are working and will not disturb you unnecessarily.”
One homeworker says, “A few things you would not ordinarily think of: not having the right office chair, a proper desk height, having a commercial-grade printer, excellent internet connections, and office peripherals—that can affect productivity. Unless you have a dedicated office set up, it’s tough to work at home if the equipment is not provided.”
According to IWG’s report, many businesses – though quick to acknowledge the advantages of flexibility in the work landscape – are still falling short of providing the essential requirements for successful remote working,
While 57% of workers report a fully equipped home office, only 28% confirm their business contributed to its set-up costs.
Other disadvantages of working from home include an inability to ‘switch off, easy procrastination, the lack of human interaction, and the loss of a collaborative working environment. Ultimately it is important to remember that you still must meet your deadlines and be available for crucial meetings when you work from home.
Many who work from home lament that they often work around the clock since their work has no definitive start or end times; those lines can often be blurred when you are at home. As a result, they sometimes feel as if they are always at work, making it challenging to shift to the post-work relaxation mode that many office workers take for granted when five pm comes around. Setting boundaries and sticking to them is crucial when working from home.
Some emote workers also complain that they often feel disassociated and miss the interaction an office can bring – with communication systems, such as email, chat, social media, and text being sometimes impersonal. With no water cooler and lunchroom chats, body language, facial expressions, and other cues, remote employees must put extra effort to maintain positive communications. Some homeworkers also feel despondent, saying their homework environment is the same place where they’ll be sitting later that evening – either eating or watching TV – so there may be no boundaries or separation. There are numerous stories of people who just can’t wait to return to the office.
With millions of Canadians now used to working at home, it’s clear that employment patterns have changed. Many of those in the employment recruitment business believe a large portion of remote workers may never return to the workplace and will either resign or seek employment that allows them to stay as home workers. This has been borne out by “The great resignation” of American workers in 2021. Millions of US workers opted out of returning to work to seek better opportunities and life/work balance or insisting on remote working only. Ultimately so many people are used to working at home now, many are reluctant to return in many cases.
Across Canada, employers are trying to map out what’s best for their organizations in a post-pandemic era of how they’ll structure their working arrangements going forward and how that will affect employees. Employers also feel a loss of control when employees work off-site but are now forced to embrace a more flexible future. Larger organizations realize although a final mandate to return to work may result in lost talent – a hybrid system may be the answer allowing employees to work part of the time at home. Companies such as Microsoft and other large corporations embrace this change called a “Hybrid flex model.” which will define the post-pandemic workplace of the future.
As the pandemic eases and companies fully reopen operations, most staff could work remotely at least half the time—However, this model has some disadvantages. Chief among them, workers may find a hybrid model, may find it limits career advancement and promotions—if you are given a choice to consider.