Canadian workforce of the future survey

Employees and employers adjust to a new world of work in the COVID-19 era


Delivering differently in a new world of work

We’re on the edge of a new world of work—one brimming with ways to reimagine how we use technology to collaborate, innovate and deliver differently. Our Canadian workforce study* (conducted July 23 to 27, 2020) takes the pulse of employees’ and employers’ perceptions of return-to-workplace plans, the digital workplace experience and the importance of work-life balance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Canadians’ ways of working and their relationships with organizations are becoming more fluid, so it’s time to build stronger business resilience and maximize the potential of your people. Do you understand where you want to take your business from here—and how to prepare for the future of work?

At a glance

  •  As the world adjusts to new ways of working, most employees want flexibility to choose between their homes and the office, as needed. 
  • Canadians see remote work as a mixed bag when it comes to maintaining productivity, with work-life balance cited as their top challenge.
  • Employers who invest in upskilling their employees have been better able to succeed in uncertainty.

Remote work is here to stay, so be prepared

Prior to the pandemic, most Canadian employees (82%) worked primarily from an external workplace, and today, that’s down to 27%—with 59% now working remotely. This dip is most pronounced in the hardest-hit provinces, Quebec and Ontario.

As the world adjusts to the new working environment, organizations are trying to develop best practices for remote working and returning to the workplace. But while most employers (78%) expect at least a partial return to the office in the next three months, only one in five employees says they want to go back to their workplace full time.

 

64% of remote employees say they wouldn’t or aren’t sure they’d be comfortable returning  to the workplace in the next  three months

Most employees want flexibility to choose between their homes and the office, as needed—and the larger the organization, the greater the desire for remote work. With these preferences in mind, do you have a mobile workforce strategy and program? And do you know what else you could do virtually? Identifying where and how to create a flexible office environment can reduce costs and let your organization access new sources of talent.

The adjusted workplace

Describe your work environment

The work environment employees want

What’s your ideal scenario for your work environment?


Regional spotlight

We’re seeing regional differences in preferences for remote work and comfort in returning to the workplace. Employees in Ontario and Quebec have a greater preference for remote work. Workers in Alberta and Atlantic Canada are the most comfortable returning to their workplace in the next three months (47% and 45%, respectively), while Ontarians are the least (30%).

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Employee preference to work primarily/entirely remotely, by industry*

What’s your ideal scenario for your work environment?

* Base: Business (n=147), education (n=179), financial services (n=104), government (n=321), health care (n=126), not-for-profit (n=96), tech and telecom (n=81), energy and utilities (n=50), manufacturing (n=62).

Engaging people within the digital workplace experience

Not only are social-distancing policies making it necessary for Canadian workers to dial into their offices, but also Canadians want to work remotely more than ever before. Employees and employees are facing the workforce challenges of an increasingly digital world. 

How do employees rate their productivity during the pandemic?
25% decreased, 40% no change, 35% increased

Employees say their top three challenges are dealing with work-life balance (especially for households with kids), maintaining productivity and communicating with co-workers without traditional in-person interactions. Despite naming maintaining productivity as a top challenge, some Canadian workers say their productivity has actually increased since the pandemic. In fact, employees are largely split around whether productivity has increased, decreased or stayed the same. The financial services industry experienced a significant boost in output, with almost half (46%) of employees reporting increased productivity during the pandemic (the highest among sectors measured).

Employees’ biggest work challenges since COVID-19

Increases in employee productivity during the pandemic by industry*

How would you rate your own work productivity during the pandemic?

* Base: Business (n=147), education (n=179), financial services (n=104), government (n=321), health care (n=126), not-for-profit (n=96), tech and telecom (n=81), energy and utilities (n=50), manufacturing (n=62).

Almost half of financial services workers report increased productivity during the pandemic—the highest of all industries.

On the employer side, they name maintaining morale and company culture, adjusting to changing customer needs and connectivity in a virtual work environment as their top three challenges.

How can you keep your people engaged and help them thrive in the new world of work? Are your leaders equipped? Organizations most likely to succeed are those that think differently about how to access talent and build engagement and trust within virtual and hybrid working environments.

40%  of employees who were provided upskilling opportunities saw a jump in productivity during the pandemic

As remote working environments become the new norm, the need for digital transformation and enablement is heightened. Most employees and employers feel their company has the necessary tools for employees to succeed in their jobs—but strong majorities of both employees (72%) and employers (68%) believe the pandemic will exacerbate existing disparities in access to technology (the “digital divide”).  Looking to specific sectors, public sector workers in education, government and health care report decreased access to the tools they need to do their jobs during the pandemic.

Are your people performing to their potential? Investing in your people is investing in your future. Consider a workforce strategy that helps develop new ways of working in a disrupted world.

Upskilling related to job performance

Do you feel upskilling opportunities help improve employee/your job performance at your company?

Overall 81% of employees and 83% of employers said yes.

Positive impact of upskilling opportunities
  With upskilling opportunities Without upskilling opportunities
Company leadership is effective during the pandemic 92% 75%
Definitely/mostly have the necessary tools/technology to be successful before the pandemic 90% 72%
Definitely/mostly have the necessary tools/technology to be successful during the pandemic 84% 62%
Increased work productivity during the pandemic 40% 25%

Employees assess if they have the necessary tools to be successful*

Do you feel you have or had the necessary tools and technology for you to be successful at your job?

* Base: Business (n=147), education (n=179), financial services (n=104), government (n=321), health care (n=126), not-for-profit (n=96), tech and telecom (n=81), energy and utilities (n=50), manufacturing (n=62).

Public sector workers in education, government and healthcare report a decreased access to the tools they need to do their jobs during the pandemic.


Workers in business, government, healthcare and not-for-profit sectors have gaps in access to upskilling opportunities for all workers who believe they would improve their job performance.

Upskilling opportunities by industry

Belief that upskilling would help job performance versus access to upskilling opportunities

* Base: Business (n=147), education (n=179), financial services (n=104), government (n=321), health care (n=126), not-for-profit (n=96), tech and telecom (n=81), energy and utilities (n=50), manufacturing (n=62).

We’re all in this together

Working at home has added to the pressures of organizational productivity, employee mental health and corporate culture. Many managers don’t have a playbook for leading remote teams—but the sweeping changes that occurred during the pandemic haven’t affected confidence in companies’ leadership, which most employees continue to say is effective (86%). What’s more, employees and employers are also confident in their organization’s financial outlook over the next six months.

When comparing the responses of employees and employers, there aren’t huge gaps in perception around upskilling opportunities, financial stability, management effectiveness and remote work expectations. Organizations can be proud that Canadian employers and employees are connected and part of a collegial business community. Good leadership gives you an edge in troubled times, so empower your leaders to establish practices that foster trust and engagement to give people the support they need to stimulate creativity, collaboration and innovation.

 

Overall, 90% of employees and 86% of employers are confident in their organization’s short term financial stability.


 

Looking ahead

How confident are you in your organizations financial stability over the next six months?

Three questions to consider:

Do you have a mobile workforce strategy and program?
Are your people performing to their potential?
How can you keep your people engaged and help them thrive in the new world of work?

Prepare for the future of work now 

COVID-19 has only accelerated the pace of change for how we work and conduct business in Canada. Organizations must ensure they have the necessary tools, workforce structure and skills in place to be successful in the increasingly digital future. 

At PwC we can help you form a workforce strategy, upskill your people, reimagine your office and transform your HR function to meet the evolving needs of your organization.  

Contact us to learn how

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About our Canadian workforce study: This poll was conducted by the Angus Reid Group from July 23 to 27, 2020, to understand Canadian employees’ and employers’ perceptions of work productivity and effectiveness during the COVID-19 pandemic. The poll was conducted using a nationally representative sample of 1,528 full-time or part-time employed Canadians and a sample of 505 Canadian employers, defined as executive or senior decision makers who manage team members.

Contact us

Jean McClellan

Jean McClellan

National Consulting People and Organization Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 403 509 7578

Dave Peters

Dave Peters

People and Organization Leader, Tax Transformation Leader, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 403 509 7481

Baya  Benouniche

Baya Benouniche

Partner, People and Organization, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 514 205 5409

Jennifer Melnyk

Jennifer Melnyk

Partner, PwC Canada

Tel: 403-509-7324

Kathy Parker

Kathy Parker

Partner, People and Organisation, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 687 9014

Matt Pittman

Matt Pittman

Partner, HR Transformation, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 416 815 5008

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