The implementation of working from home was instituted as a means of keeping office workers safe from the fast-spreading nature of COVID-19. Now, Ontario is welcoming office workers back and are mandating the return of public servants as late as April 4.
The province seems to be making a bittersweet departure from the more relaxed nature of remote working, with workers and employers alike having differing reactions. Oxford Properties’ use of signs in the lobby of their Toronto offices created discourse recently on the subject of returning to work. What was meant to be “lighthearted”, came off as “uncaring” according to a spokesperson who spoke with CTV News.
The practice of working remotely (otherwise known as teleworking or telecommuting) has been something of particular interest for James Chowhan, assistant professor in York’s School of Human Resource Management, along with his colleagues Kelly Macdonald and Sara L. Mann of the University of Guelph, and Gordon B. Cooke, an associate professor at the Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Their study, “Telework in Canada: Who Is Working from Home during the COVID-19 Pandemic?” examines whether gender, education level, immigrant status, age, and physical and mental health played a role in individuals who worked remotely.
According to the study, those with bachelor degrees or higher were more likely to find jobs that involved teleworking as opposed to those with a high school education or lower. Chowhan notes that access to teleworking is “related to the nature of the job. There are a lot of different and flexible work arrangements — telework is one of them and we are able to take a look at how outcomes vary.”
Another notable difference was between Canadian-born males with bachelor’s degrees who worked from home compared to female immigrants with a high school education, which was 49 per cent compared to 12 per cent respectively.
In the study, Chowhan was pleased to see that there “isn’t a huge difference between Canadian-born workers and immigrants with the same levels of education. Canadian and immigrant workers with bachelor’s degrees both had similar opportunities for working remotely.”
Now with restrictions easing and teleworking seemingly becoming a thing of the past, will there still be opportunities for Ontarians? Chowhan hopes that the easing of pandemic restrictions will allow economic activity to return to pre-pandemic conditions.
“Going forward, it will be interesting to see whether the availability of working from home or remote work inspires employers to offer additional flexible working opportunities or work arrangements for employees. The ability to offer certain flexible work practices is often linked to occupational characteristics and/or organizational operational requirements.”
Excalibur also asked both Chowhan and Macdonald how they think the way we work could evolve. While this was not covered in their study, Chowhan noted that “for about 40 per cent of employees in Canada, their jobs do not need to be tied to a particular location.
“One could imagine how, where, and when we work could be thought of more flexibly in the future. Further, one could imagine that there are parallels between work and learning/educational environments such that some of the flexibility we are seeing in work may emerge in education.”
Macdonald shared similar sentiments. “Our educational institutions could evolve to accommodate increasingly hybrid learning environments that could allow ongoing learning at every stage of our lives, as learning and living could co-exist harmoniously at any stage of a person’s lifespan.”