How employees want to return to work

Research from KPMG suggests a majority want hybrid models to be implemented and feel employers are ill-prepared to transition.
Work from Home

A new survey by KPMG sheds light on the work arrangements Canadian employees hope will become the norm – as well as the challenges employers will face in meeting those expectations – when the pandemic eventually comes to an end.

According to the firm’s late-March survey of more than 2,000 Canadians (conducted using Delvinia’s AskCanadians panel), 77% of respondents want the flexibility to work in the office and remotely once the pandemic is under control. What’s more, 71% said a hybrid workplace or office “should be the standard model for all organizations.”

However, many Canadians are worried about how this transition will be handled by their employers, KPMG found. Eighty-one percent are concerned their bosses aren’t prepared nor equipped to manage new hybrid models, and 49% feel they risk being overlooked for promotions or face discrimination if they want to continue working from home. That’s roughly the same amount of people (45%) who believe their employer does not understand the implications of a hybrid workplace model.

In a statement accompanying the survey, KPMG’s Doron Melnick, partner and national lead of the people and change practice, noted Canadians continue to crave flexibility at work even though, for many, the novelty of working from home for more than a year has worn off. “It’s equally clear that Canadians have a lot of concerns about how that will work,” he said.

In spite of Canadians’ desire to continue working from home at least part of the time, 63% of respondents still want to return to their physical workplace or office, according to the research.

But they remain concerned about contracting COVID-19 on their way to work or during work hours, with 68% saying they fear contracting the disease from colleagues. Seventy-two percent are reluctant to take public transportation – roughly the same number of those who said the same this time last year – and 60% are worried about the need for traveling for work within the province, within Canada or abroad.

When it comes to policies that could help mitigate these concerns, 57% of Canadians believe employers should have the right to demand staff be vaccinated before allowing them to enter the workplace, and 54% believe they should be able to require proof of vaccination. Meanwhile, 72% would agree to regular tests for COVID-19 in the workplace.

The findings follow another recent KPMG survey that found nearly 30% of employees feel more committed and loyal to their employer than before the pandemic and that 60% have found more purpose in their work – despite the high levels of burnout other research suggests has resulted from bigger workloads during the pandemic, as well as the isolation that often comes with working from home.

According to KPMG’s most recent survey, the proportion of employees who are satisfied with their current work-from-home environments has dropped nearly 10% (from 76% a year ago to 67% today), while 51% feel more productive at work, down from 59% last year.