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Mario Canseco: Remote work now a mandatory office option for younger generation

Nearly one-third of B.C.’s pandemic home workers are no longer allowed to labour from home, according to survey results
With a low unemployment rate and plenty of opportunities available, B.C.’s pandemic home workers are considering other options. | Alistair Berg/DigitalVIsion/Getty Images

The early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic – with complexities related to online access and applications like Zoom and Teams becoming indispensable – may seem like a distant memory for some employed British Columbians.

When Research Co. and Glacier Media queried the province’s workforce earlier this month, we found a severe age gap between those who have abandoned the home office and those who have continued to fulfil their duties without having to commute.

Many of British Columbia’s pandemic home workers have maintained their habits.

About a third (32 per cent, up one point since October 2022) say they are currently working five days a week from home, while 19 per cent (down six points) do so three or four times a week.

Another third (32 per cent, unchanged) can labour from home once or twice a week, while 17 per cent (up six points) are at the office every day. Southern B.C. is leading the way in making sure that employees are back at the office full time.

In this region, 31 per cent of British Columbia’s pandemic home workers are no longer allowed to labour from home.

The proportion is smaller in northern B.C. (27 per cent), the Fraser Valley (25 per cent) and Vancouver Island (24 per cent). In Metro Vancouver, only 11 per cent of British Columbia’s pandemic home workers are now always at the office (the lowest of all regions) and 36 per cent are staying at home five days a week (the highest of all regions).

More than three in five of British Columbia’s pandemic home workers (63 per cent, unchanged) say they are happy with their current arrangements to labour from home. This leaves 14 per cent who are working from home more often that they would like to (down five points) and 23 per cent (up five points) who yearn for more time away from the office.

With a low unemployment rate and plenty of opportunities available, B.C.’s pandemic home workers are considering other options.

Practically one in five (19 per cent) say they have left a job because their company did not allow them to work from home as often as they wanted.

The province’s youngest pandemic home workers are particularly adventurous, with 39 per cent saying they have switched jobs since the start of the pandemic because of unsuitable work-from-home arrangements.

The proportions are paltry among their counterparts aged 35 to 54 (nine per cent) and aged 55 and over (two per cent).

More than half of B.C.’s pandemic home workers are taking a cautious approach when it comes to home offices. More than half (55 per cent) say they are “very likely” or “moderately likely” to seek a different job if their current company does not allow them to work from home as much as they want.

As expected, the generational breakdowns are staggering. Only 27 per cent of pandemic home workers aged 55 and over are open to exploring new gigs, compared with 52 per cent of those aged 35 to 54 and 73 per cent of those aged 18 to 34.

This should be a particularly worrying statistic for human resources departments across the province: More than seven in 10 young employees who laboured from home during the pandemic would have no problem walking away if a company granted them more time at home.

The appetite remains stable for exploring work-from-home options that would entail reporting to someone in the same metropolitan area (64 per cent, down two points), the same province (58 per cent, down one point) and a different province (46 per cent, up one point).

In each of these instances, young pandemic home workers are significantly more enthusiastic than their older counterparts.

It has been said repeatedly that COVID-19 would be a game-changer. On the topic of labour, there is a generation that has clearly developed a taste for the home office.

Many British Columbians aged 18 to 34 who had to juggle home life with work commitments thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

Practically two in five have already changed jobs and more than half would not have a problem quitting their current one, if a chance to recreate the balance that the pandemic brought to their lives presented itself.

Mario Canseco is president of Research Co. Results are based on an online study conducted from July 3 to July 8, 2023, among 1,000 adults who work in British Columbia, including 492 who worked from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The margin of error – which measures sample variability – is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points for all workers and plus or minus 4.4 percentage points for home workers, 19 times out of 20.