While a rating agency complimented the property and casualty insurance space for pivoting its work environment from the office to employee homes, a new workplace survey has found that Canadian employees are looking for greater flexibility in choosing where they work going forward.
As people return to the workplace, it seems the office life that they once knew may become a thing of the past. If many employees have their way, they won’t be going into the office five days a week like they typically did before the novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11.
A recent ADP Canada survey found that 45% of working Canadians they asked reported they would prefer to work remotely at least three days a week. Additionally, more than a quarter would prefer to work flex hours.
The survey spoke to managers and front-line employees. ADP Canada reported that working remotely didn’t have a significant impact on productivity, hours worked or the quality of work produced.
“It’s clear that employees want to choose how and when they work,” says Heather Haslam, vice president of marketing at ADP Canada. “Employers that embrace flexibility within their culture may improve employee engagement, retention and performance. However, flexible work requires the appropriate tools to support collaboration, productivity, workplace culture and engagement in a remote environment.”
It’s a shift the P&C insurance industry will need to take into consideration, said Ray Thomson, director at A.M. Best.
“Like many other industries, the Canadian insurance industry will need to consider where the new normal is headed,” he said during the AM Best Canadian Outlook: In the Shadow of COVID-19 virtual presentation on Sept. 9. “Many workers have indicated they would prefer a more defined and substantial form of a remote working environment when the pandemic eventually eases.”
Thomson went on to call the transition to a remote working environment a success as there were minimal disruptions to the operations of insurance companies. “Return to office will be dictated on a provincial basis in accordance with government and medical experts. Outside the major cities, there may be a sooner and more gradual return,” he added.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the younger demographic most drawn to remote work options. The ADP Canada study found that 61% of workers aged 18-34 would prefer to work remotely three days a week, compared to 43% of those over 35.
Those aged 18 to 34 are more likely to believe the workplace will change, compared to other age groups: 44% believe their employer will offer more flexible work options in the next five years, compared to only a quarter of workers over 35.
Still, the expectation by some is that there won’t be a drastic change over the long term. When asked what the workplace will look like in five years, 44% said no such great change will take place. But more than a quarter believe they’ll be offered more flexible work options by their employer. Furthermore, nearly 25% believe most employees will work remotely in the future — just 6% believe the workplace will be fully virtual.
Meanwhile, the survey also found that Canadians have mixed feelings about going back to the workplace. Half of those surveyed have returned to the office, 15% said they don’t want to return at all, 12% felt anxious, while 13% were looking forward to going back. More than half of those surveyed (56%) had concerns about catching the virus at work and 30% were concerned that their employer may not take the necessary steps to protect them from COVID-19.
Still, most employees believe their employer is taking the necessary steps to protect them. Respondents say their employer has increased sanitization and cleaning of workspaces (66%), implemented social distancing measures (64%) or has provided protective barriers and equipment (51%).
“While it appears most employees feel their employer has taken the necessary precautions to protect them, ongoing communication and education can help ease additional anxiety Canadians may be experiencing,” Haslam said, vice president of marketing at ADP Canada. “By sharing a clear re-opening plan and setting expectations, employers can mitigate health and safety concerns and ensure employees are aware of new policies and what to expect when they come back to work.”