During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians have worked from home. This shift to remote work has aimed to slow the spread of the coronavirus by reducing contact between people.
To gauge the impact of the pandemic on remote work at Canadian businesses, Statistics Canada conducted a nationwide survey in 2020. The graphs below show some of its findings. The first graph shows the percentage of businesses, in each province and the three territories, that had more than half of their workforce working remotely a) before the pandemic and b) on 29 May 2020, during the pandemic. The second graph shows the percentage of businesses which expected that more than half their workforce would continue to work remotely after COVID-19.
Increases in Remote Work During the Pandemic
During the pandemic, businesses in Saskatchewan saw the most dramatic shift to workforces that were more than half remote. Before 1 February 2020, only 3.9 per cent of Saskatchewan’s businesses met this description. By 29 May, the figure had increased five-fold to 19.9 per cent. Newfoundland and Labrador (growth of 4.3 to 16.3 per cent) and Prince Edward Island (growth of 6.5 to 21 per cent) followed.
Before the pandemic, the three territories and Quebec had the largest percentages of businesses staffed by a workforce that was more than half remote (12 and 10.8 per cent, respectively). By 29 May, however, this distinction went to Ontario (26.8 per cent) and Alberta (24.3 per cent).
Expectation of Remote Work after COVID-19
Saskatchewan is also the province where businesses expect the largest lasting increase in remote work as the result of the pandemic. Employers with more than half their workforce working remotely will make up 9.2 per cent of the business sector, according to the survey. That compares to 3.9 per cent pre-pandemic. Saskatchewan is the only province that expects more than a two-fold increase in this rate. By contrast, the three territories are the only region that expects a lower post-pandemic remote-work rate than the one it had pre-pandemic. Only 9.9 per cent of businesses there expect to be staffed more than half remotely, compared to the 12 per cent before February 2020.
In the post-pandemic era, Ontario and Quebec expect to have the largest percentages of businesses that will be staffed more than half remotely (15.8 and 12.9 per cent, respectively). Businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island expect the lowest rates (6.9 and 8.5 per cent, respectively). These statistics agree with a separate analysis by Statistics Canada of the total capacity for telework in each province. That paper found that Ontario and Quebec had the most capacity (roughly 40 per cent each), while PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador had the least (about 31 per cent each). Among Canada’s industries, finance and insurance have the greatest teleworking capacity (85.3 per cent). This fact contributes to the large capacity of Ontario and Quebec, as Toronto and Montreal are two of Canada’s largest financial centres. Capacity for remote work in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, meanwhile, is only 3.9 per cent. The economies of PEI and Newfoundland and Labrador rely heavily on agriculture and fishing.