the future of remote work.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, employees across Canada left their offices and began to work from home. Now that restrictions have been lifted and industries are recovering, employees and employers are wondering one thing — is remote work here to stay? Based on emerging trends in employment data, the shift to remote work seems to be permanent.

what percentage of canadians perform remote work?

Many people assumed that when life returned to normal post-pandemic, employees would also return to the workplace. However, that hasn't been the case.

The Environics Institute for Survey Research has been tracking the work arrangements of employed Canadians since 2020 with the multi-wave Survey on Employment and Skills. In June of 2021, 50% of employees were working from home at least part of the time. In the spring of 2022, when restrictions had largely been eased, 46% were still in the same situation — a decrease of just 4%. About 49% of employees are leaving the house to work.

While some employees have chosen hybrid arrangements, it's not the norm. Approximately 31% of Canadian workers are fully remote. Just 6% of those people worked remotely before the pandemic started.

remote work in different industries

The popularity of remote work varies by industry. A Canadian Chamber of Commerce survey, conducted in the third quarter of 2022, found that professional services has the highest percentage of remote workers at 25%; 47% of the industry's workforce is hybrid. Information and culture is close behind, with 19% of workers holding remote jobs and 39% in hybrid positions.

At the other end of the spectrum is the accommodation and food service industry, where just 1% of the workforce is remote and 13% is hybrid. That's not surprising, given the in-person nature of the work.

employee perspectives on remote work

If it's up to workers, remote work will be the way of the future. In 2022, 78% of employees who work remotely say they prefer it to being in the office. That wasn't always the case; in December 2020, just 64% of people expressed the same sentiment. 

What changed? Over the course of 2 years, professionals learned how to work from home effectively. They also discovered the benefits of working from home. Without a commute, employees reclaimed both time and money. They could work efficiently while taking care of household tasks. Parents were able to stay home with sick kids without finding a babysitter or taking time off work.

About 1 in 10 Canadian employees became so serious about remote work that they moved or switched jobs to make the process easier. This trend is particularly common among younger professionals.

how will remote jobs affect the labour market and the future of work?

Remote work arrangements are still evolving, and it will take time before the dust settles completely. Given employees' strong preference for work from home jobs, however, the trend is expected to continue.

The labour shortage has the potential to accelerate the process. Across Canada, 36.9% of all companies are expecting to have trouble hiring skilled workers. To attract top talent, employers may need to offer remote or hybrid options. This alone may help alleviate some hiring challenges — when a job can be performed from anywhere, employers can gain access to a larger pool of candidates.

As employees continue to search for work from home jobs, it may create problems in industries that aren't suited to remote work. This is playing out in the accommodation and food services industry, where 46.3% of employers are struggling to find qualified candidates.

man on the phone smiling and sitting on home stairs with book shelves in the background
man on the phone smiling and sitting on home stairs with book shelves in the background

evolution of remote work

It's safe to expect the remote-work experience to evolve over the next few years. Employees are already finding ways to address the challenges of working from home. To reduce isolation, some workers are spending more time in coworking spaces. Businesses are responding and coworking companies such as Spaces are opening new facilities across the country.

Work-life balance is another concern employees must address. According to the Survey on Employment and Skills, 45% of remote workers feel like they're always on the clock. Among professionals with children, the challenge is to find ways to navigate parenting when working from home with a toddler or an older child.

Employers are also making changes to adapt to the new reality. Communication is key — companies are shifting to new collaboration platforms to keep everyone on the same page. Managers are learning to gauge performance, maintain productivity and guide dispersed teams effectively. To accommodate their new circumstances, many companies are adapting their policies for employee availability, technology requirements and work hours.

If remote work becomes the rule rather than the exception, it may affect how companies are structured. Without a large on-site workforce, businesses may be able to reduce real estate overhead by moving into smaller office spaces. The cost savings can be funneled into better technology infrastructure and improved training.

Then, there's the inevitable shift in company culture. When an employer can't rely on in-person events to build relationships and communicate shared values, they must find other ways to engage employees. This might include celebrating holidays virtually, leaning into casual video meetings or mailing employee recognition packages.

As remote jobs become a permanent part of the labour landscape, preparation is key. With the right mindset and a flexible approach, both employees and employers can navigate workplace changes while maintaining productivity and job satisfaction.

For additional reading on remote jobs, check out these pertinent articles:

receive our latest career advice


meet our recruiters

submit your profile