One legacy of the COVID-19 pandemic in Canada is the ongoing shift in work arrangements and location. Work-from-home (WFH), once considered a temporary emergency solution to the initial lockdowns in 2020, has taken root, reshaping how individuals work in many sectors.

In a previous Policy Options article, we explored this trend using data from a survey called Shaping the Future of Work in Canada conducted in 2022 by EKOS Research Associates. At the time, over 40 per cent of respondents were still working from home or had done so until recently. Many such workers reported very positive work experiences, with satisfaction well above that of those working from traditional work locations.

To see how these trends have further evolved, the Future of Work Consortium conducted a second survey in April and May 2023, drawing on 2,642 employed and self-employed Canadians aged 18 and over.

Several key trends stand out.

First, work-from-home and hybrid arrangements have become a viable option in Canada. Over 40 per cent of workers carried out some amount of paid work from home in the six months prior to our 2023 survey. In pre-pandemic times, this is work that typically would have been done in their employer’s workplace.

That said, there is considerable variation in WFH arrangements. Roughly 16.5 per cent of respondents work entirely at home. Another 23 per cent do the majority of their work from home, and 20 per cent work from home only a bit. At the far end of the spectrum, 40 per cent do not work from home at all (Figure 1).

Second, there are substantial differences in who has access to home-based work. Those who spend most of their work time at home are predominantly full-time employees (68.4 per cent). Just over one in five (21.5 per cent) is self-employed, 5.7 per cent are part-time employees, and 4.4 per cent are seasonal, term, or contract workers.

Highly educated knowledge workers are also more likely to work from home. Over two-thirds (67.1 per cent) of respondents who exclusively work from home have undergraduate or postgraduate degrees compared with under half (47.3 per cent) of respondents who report no home-based work.

Gender slightly influences opportunities to work from home. Over a quarter of men (27.3 per cent) and women (27.8 per cent) work 80 per cent or more of their time at home. But men are also slightly more likely than women to work 100 per cent at home (17.5 per cent men, 15 per cent women) and to do no remote work at all (41.9 per cent men, 38.2 per cent women)

Self-identified visible minorities are generally well-represented among home-based workers. Nearly 29 per cent work at home 80 per cent to 100 per cent of the time compared with about 27 per cent of non-visible minority workers. About one-third of visible minorities report doing no work at home (34.2 per cent) but this is less than other workers (42.3 per cent).

Employer size also shapes remote work, with WFH being more common in smaller organizations. Specifically, of those working at home 100 per cent of the time, 43 per cent of are employed by organizations with under 50 employees in Canada. Only 24 per cent of home-based workers are employed by large organizations with over 1,000 employees in Canada.

Union members are less likely than non-members to report working primarily from home. For example, 7.9 per cent of union members work entirely at home compared to 15 per cent of professional-association members and 22.9 per cent of survey respondents who belonged to neither of these types of organizations.

Third, WFH continues to be linked with very positive assessments of job satisfaction and well-being. This mirrors findings from our 2022 survey, though exceptions to this trend are beginning to emerge.

As figure 2 shows, roughly two-thirds of respondents felt that WFH had a positive impact on their job satisfaction, productivity and mental health. A majority also reported a positive impact on their commitment to their employer and work safety.

That said, we also see some negative impacts on team building and socializing among co-workers.

Interestingly, the more time respondents report working from home, the greater the reported positive impact. For instance, 74.6 per cent of those working fully at home reported positive impacts in job satisfaction compared with just 53.6 per cent of those working 20 per cent of the time at home. A similar trend can be seen for the impact on productivity.

Working primarily from home is also linked to positive assessments on an array of detailed job quality and satisfaction measures, especially among respondents entirely home-based. For this group, such outcomes include: being treated respectfully by co-workers, having opportunities for creativity, having independence at work, trusting their immediate supervisor and senior management, having the ability to balance work and family and the authority to make decisions. They also include having access to a retirement plan, a good income, and input into their employer’s post-pandemic work plans.

How supervisors see WFH

We also asked respondents who supervise others whether they felt working from home had positively or negatively impacted their supervisees.

Of that group, over half had supervisees who worked at home some of the time. Overall, the majority of supervisors reported very positive impacts on their employees’ morale, productivity, and commitment to the organization, as figure 3 shows. However, mixed results are seen on the ability to collaborate. Over one-third of respondents reported a negative impact on collaboration among those they supervise.

Well-being and quality of work life

We asked respondents how satisfied they were with their lives as a whole on a scale of 1 to 10. Those who rated their life satisfaction between 8 and 10 were more likely to be working from home some of the time. About 48 per cent of those working from home at least 60 per cent of the time reported life satisfaction in the 8 to 10 range compared with 42 per cent of respondents who do not work from home. It’s a small but noteworthy difference.

Surprisingly, work from home does not appear to affect physical and mental health. The amount of time worked from home led to no statistically significant differences in respondents’ ratings of their physical and mental health using the categories of excellent/very good, good, or fair/poor.

Podcast | What Canadian CEOs are saying about work from home

How COVID-19 could bring a downtown Ottawa revival

Make remote work a plus instead of a penalty for gender equality

Finally, given debates over how employers are handling arrangements, we asked about evolving practices. Overall, the vast majority (69 per cent) of respondents had not been consulted about any return-to-work process. Another 11 per cent reported being fully consulted, and 20 per cent somewhat consulted.

In terms of planning, just under half (47 per cent) agreed to a great extent that the return-to-work process had been well-planned. However, nearly one-quarter (23 per cent) did not feel it was well-planned.

The survey also asked: “Recognizing that it may not be practical in your industry, approximately how much of the time would you prefer to work from home?” Only 59 per cent who work exclusively at their employer’s worksite would like to continue that way. In contrast, 81 per cent of those who work from home all of the time want to continue doing so.

Job quality: a new component

To summarize, there are obvious signs that work-from-home is emerging as one of Canadians’ more enduring responses to the disruptions of the pandemic. Workers who can work from home report overall better quality of work life. This has introduced a whole new dimension to job-quality variations. To a large extent, workers who went into the pandemic with a higher socioeconomic status came out ahead.

There have been few public-policy responses to these emerging work trends. A big question is to what extent governments can influence working-from-home patterns in ways that provide more equitable access and benefits.

Note about the survey:

The Shaping the Future of Work in Canada Follow Up Survey was conducted using EKOS Research Associates’ hybrid online/telephone research panel Probit. It offers extensive coverage of the Canadian population (i.e., Internet, phone, cell phone) and equal probability sampling. All respondents were recruited by telephone using random digit dialing and were confirmed by interviewers.

Unlike with online panels where people can opt in themselves, Probit supports margin-of-error estimates. The field dates for the survey were April 25 and May 5, 2023. A random sample of 2,642 individuals who were engaged in the workforce responded. This included employees and the self-employed. The margin of error associated with the total sample is +/- 1.3 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

All data has been statistically weighted by age, gender and region based on the proportions of employed people from the 2016 census to ensure the sample’s composition reflected that of the actual population of Canada. 

The research methodology and questionnaire were approved by research ethics boards at the University of Alberta and Toronto Metropolitan University. Further details of the survey and questions can be obtained from

The project is funded by the Future Skills Centre and conducted by the multidisciplinary Future of Work research consortium. Members include Graham Lowe, Merv Gilbert, Karen D. Hughes (University of Alberta), Frank Graves (EKOS Research Associates), Jim Stanford (Centre for Future Work) and Pamela Sugiman (Toronto Metropolitan University).

We thank Galiba Zahid at the University of Alberta for providing excellent research assistance on this article.

Do you have something to say about the article you just read? Be part of the Policy Options discussion, and send in your own submission, or a letter to the editor. 
Graham Lowe

Graham Lowe is president of the The Graham Lowe Group Inc. a workplace consulting firm, and a professor emeritus at the University of Alberta. His publications include Creating Healthy Organizations (Rotman/UTP Publishing), Redesigning Work (Rotman/UTP Publishing), and The Quality of Work: A People-Centered Agenda (Oxford University Press).

Karen D. Hughes

Karen D. Hughes is a professor in the department of sociology and the Alex Hamilton Professor of Business at the University of Alberta.

Frank Graves
Frank Graves is the president and founder of EKOS Research Associates Inc.

You are welcome to republish this Policy Options article online or in print periodicals, under a Creative Commons/No Derivatives licence.

Creative Commons License