Over the past few years, many workplaces have had to temporarily shift to an online format to comply with the increased safety measures established to help minimize the spread of COVID-19. The development of file sharing and video calling applications as well as improved internet speeds have helped make the transition to remote work possible. Strikingly, many people have now found that working from home has boosted their workplace productivity. Ninety percent of Canadians that are now working from home find that they are at least as productive as their usual workplace and approximately one-third find that they are completing more work per hour at home.

Not having to commute to work could be one of the main reasons why many Canadians are finding working from home to be more productive. In Toronto, the average commuter generally spends over an hour traveling to and from work, which can consume important time that otherwise would be used to complete personal responsibilities outside of work and generate an improved work-life balance. Additionally, trying to manage all one’s responsibilities in addition to commuting can impact the amount of time available to sleep. Several surveys have reported that approximately 12-27% of people would sleep if given an extra hour in the day, suggesting that many people could be overworking and require more time to recharge for the next day. Commuting itself can also be mentally taxing, especially for the many workers who normally commute during rush hour. Bumper-to-bumper traffic and packed buses can leave workers emotionally drained before they even arrive to work.

Distractions during work hours can also cause suboptimal productivity. A recent survey compared distractions faced by office and remote workers and identified that the average hours lost per week due to distractions was the same between both groups. Working from home reduced unplanned conversations with coworkers by an average of almost two hours per week but created distractions exclusive to working from home such as household chores and caring for pets. This suggests that working from home to reduce distractions depends on the individual’s household circumstances. For instance, parents working from home that have to deal with their children face 10% more distractions. However, in many cases remote workers generally have more control and flexibility over their environment and have a greater potential to minimize distractions.

Currently, eighty percent of new Canadian remote workers would like to have at least half of their working hours be at home. Many workers seem to be in favour of not returning to work, at least not for the majority of the week. Only once restrictions are permanently lifted will we able to see the number of companies that want to commit to remote work. Notably, it has been estimated that about eighty-five percent of Canadians working in professional, scientific, and technical services can work from home. The past few years have served as a trial run for at-home work for many employees and employers and the long-term benefits and consequences of working from home besides productivity have not yet been fully materialized.


References:

  1. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/45-28-0001/2021001/article/00012-eng.htm#n3-refa

2. https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2019/06/20/toronto-commute-times-have-risen-8-per-cent-since-2013-poll-finds.html

3. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/extra-hour-a-day_n_3697387

4. https://www.plansponsor.com/survey-says-if-you-had-an-extra-hour/

5. https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/given-extra-time-at-work-naughty-french-workers-would-seek-out-another-one-of-these

6. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210615005400/en/Mopria-Alliance-Survey-Shows-that-Employees-are-Bombarded-with-Distractions(actual information is on a pdf on this page)

7. https://www.statcan.gc.ca/o1/en/plus/249-changing-nature-work

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