What Canadians are saying about returning to work

Inspired by our curiosity about the context of what a return to on-site work may feel like, we asked 36,242 professionals in Canada to share their current experiences and emotions about the future. We received 1,535 responses.

Question 1 of the survey asked about the leading emotion around returning to on-site work. Question 2, on a more personal note, asked about the #1 thing they would rush to do once the economy opens up. Question 3 discusses the desired balance of work from home and work on-site. Take a look at the results…


Q1: If tomorrow the economy and workplaces open up, and you could return to work (on-site) exactly as you did pre-COVID, what is the leading emotion that comes to mind for you personally?

* For this question we are reporting on the 1,332 who worked mostly ON-SITE prior to COVID-19. Those already working from home more commonly were not considered because they had preconceived emotions and the necessary arrangements to do so effectively (1 person skipped the question).

These are uncertain times. There’s no surprise that 37% of people reported feeling uncertain about what the future will look like if they could return to work on-site. This closely relates to the 20% who stated feeling fearful and anxious about returning to work.

We aren’t going to dive too deep into gender comparisons, but we thought it was worth noting that women feel more uncertain / fearful and anxious than men (61% female vs. 47% male); whereas men feel more joy and excitement than women (26% male vs. 19% women) surrounding a return to on-site work.

For employers, we’ve prepared a list of Practical Tips for Leaders on how to increase confidence or certainty during these times of change.


Q2: If tomorrow the economy and workplaces open up, what is the number one thing you would rush to do?

Ok, we all love our friends and family – we know that. The way we should have phrased this question is: Other than visiting friends and family, what is the number one thing you will rush to do when the economy and workplaces open up?

Seriously, who isn’t desperate to get their hair cut? This was the #2 response for females and #3 for males (12% total). Except for the 1% who put their pet’s grooming ahead of their own!

In terms of age differences, it may not come as much of a surprise that those under 30 years old would rush to the bars and restaurants more than those over 30 (16% for under 30 vs. 6% for 30-49 and 5% for 50+).

Three respondents selected “other” and listed “getting their kids babysat” as the first thing they would do – parents, I’m sure you can relate!

And then there’s the 8% who said that they would do nothing different. Our reflection on this is three-fold:

  • Some people may prefer the current state of being with fewer commitments;
  • Some may not see much of a difference at all depending on their line of work;
  • Some may have already adapted.

Q3: If you were formerly working 4-5 days a week at the office, how many days would you want to work from home once the economy opens up?

* For this question we are reporting on the 1,329 who worked mostly ON-SITE prior to COVID-19. Those already working from home more commonly were not considered because they had preconceived emotions and the necessary arrangements to do so effectively (4 people skipped the question).

What we discovered here is that 8% of people said they want to return to work on-site on a full time basis (no work from home), and another 8% said the opposite, they want to work from home 5 days a week.

Everyone else was somewhere in between with the majority (55%) expressing a desire to work from home 2 or 3 days per week.

We were a bit surprised that the most common answer for those under 30 was to work at the office 4 days a week. For the most part, what we hear from millennials on our team is that they want to work from home – and yet in this survey, we’re seeing that millennials are eager to go back to on-site work. We considered their at home set up (maybe it wasn’t ideal) but most said they work from a home office. So we question whether the desire has shifted due to lack of socialization.

Post-COVID, companies may wish to reevaluate their policies surrounding location of work and be open to the possibility that their pre-COVID practices may not be optimal for their current workforce.

We will be sending our team members another Pulse Survey in a few weeks to identify their preference in terms of work location and their transition back to the office. The goal is to consider each person’s concerns and design a stepped re-entry process that will work for them.


For the full results of our survey, view the PDF below. 

A Pulse on the Current Workforce

Curious about the context of what a return to on-site work may feel like, we asked 36,242 professionals in Canada to share their current experiences and emotions about the future.

Download our resource here