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Canadians feel ‘uncertain’ about future of their workplace heading into 2022: poll

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Canadians are feeling uncertain about the future of their workplace, with half of employees working from home saying that they expect to regularly return to the office in 2022, according to a new poll.

And while there doesn’t seem to be a clear consensus on whether a return to the office is guaranteed for the majority of those currently working from home, a growing majority is now beginning to show a preference in where — and how — they want to work.

The poll, conducted by Ipsos exclusively or Global News, revealed working Canadians’ experiences in 2021, and what their expectations were for the new year “given the ever-shifting context” of COVID-19 in Canada.

While half of Canadians expect to either return to the office — and the other half expect to continue working from home — the majority, or about 64 per cent claim, say they achieved a better work-life balance in 2021.

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Darrell Bricker, Ipsos’ CEO of Public Affairs, said that while there has been a consistent number of Canadians expressing reluctance at wanting to go back to their office, their reasoning behind not wanting to do so may have changed somewhat.

“Part of it seems to be concern about safety, but an increasing part of it — and this is the really interesting finding here — is about a preference,” said Bricker.

“It’s no longer about ‘I’m not going to go back to the office because I don’t think it’s safe.’ It’s ‘I’m not going to go back to the office because I feel like I actually prefer to work at home.'”

The poll also found that nearly nine out of ten Canadians enjoyed working from home in 2021, and that 58 per cent said they missed being with their colleagues in person.

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Many Canadians have over the past year expressed desire to continue working remotely from their homes or out of the office.

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In May, a poll done by Leger in collaboration with the Association for Canadian Studies suggested that four out five respondents didn’t want to go back to their pre-pandemic schedule — with 35 per cent who were still working from home at the time indicating they would quit their job if their employer made them come back.

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Another poll, released in June by the Business Development Bank of Canada, suggested that about three out of four businesses would continue to let their employees work from home post-pandemic, and that over half of employees said they would like to continue working remotely as much or more than they currently did then.

Though while the new work from home situation for Canadians has been widely seen as a boon, experts and some workers themselves have pointed to its potential downsides as well — including a certain difficulty in “unplugging” during their time off.

“We’ve seen an increasing trend in organizations to expect employees to be reached after hours, and that emails that are sent in late afternoon hours [or] evening hours will indeed be replied to same day,” explained Matthia Spitzmuller, associate professor of organizational behaviour at Queen’s University in a previous interview.

An April poll conducted by KPMG, which surveyed 1,000 Canadians, found nearly half of Canadians saying their workload was heavier than it was pre-pandemic.

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That heavier workload and inability to disconnect has left a sizeable number of workers worried that burnout would affect their ability to do their job — an exhaustion that’s been coupled with the other burnout felt by many during due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While a majority of Canadians say their work-life balance has been better during work from home, nearly four in ten say that they would be fine earning 20 per cent less money if they could work 20 per cent fewer hours than they currently do, according to the Ipsos poll.

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“There’s a significant number of people who are saying that the work life balance is better working from home,” said Bricker.

“So I expect that if they start getting forced to go back to the office, there is going to be some interesting discussions and debates with their employers.”

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Ultimately, Bricker said that the nature of Canadians’ work-life continued to evolve over the past year, with the majority of them who started a new job in the last year was their decision indicating that it was their decision to do so.

Bricker said the “Great Resignation” that was occurring in the United States wasn’t happening in Canada yet, though the polling data was beginning to point to more people willing to make tradeoffs in terms of the amount of commitment they make to work relative to time, and to the amount of pay that they’re getting.

“What we’re seeing here in terms of work is it’s not just a question of whether or not the disease is in the right place or the wrong place — really what’s emerging here is a preference for how you want to live your work life,” he said.

Exclusive Global News Ipsos polls are protected by copyright. The information and/or data may only be rebroadcast or republished with full and proper credit and attribution to “Global News Ipsos.” This poll was conducted between Dec. 12 and 15, 2021, with a sample of 1,001 Canadians aged 18-plus interviewed online. The precision of Ipsos online polls is measured using a credibility interval. This poll is accurate to within ± 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians aged 18-plus been polled.

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