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Remote work is now part of the competitive landscape and its impact on employers and employees shouldn't be underestimated. It is being factored into employees' job searches and employers' recruitment efforts.

Overall, the impact of the shift towards telework is changing the workplace. The benefits are considered so important that many Canadian employers plan to keep offering it once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Our research team at BDC, the bank for Canadian entrepreneurs, released a report in June that found 74% of entrepreneurs plan to keep offering their employees the ability to work remotely, even once it's safe to return to the office.

The report, What's next for remote work? Views of Canadian businesses and employees, surveyed more than 700 small businesses and 2,000 Canadian workers in February and March 2021 to learn about their views on remote work.

In British Columbia, we found that even more employers are in favour of telework, with 79% of businesses in the province planning to rely on remote work arrangements when the crisis is over.

Remote work offering is part of the job process

For more than a year, many Canadian entrepreneurs had to pivot remote work to limit the spread of the virus. Most employees now expect and want remote work to continue to be offered.

When it comes to applying for a job or accepting a job, our study revealed that 54% of employees say that access to remote work will be a determining factor in their decision.

For employers, it offers a wider pool of talent with 27% of small and medium-sized business owners saying it gives them access to potential employees they wouldn't have been able to consider.

The study also said that 55% of Canadian employees would like to work remotely as much or more than they already do now.

In B.C., it's of note that 45% of employees want to work mostly remotely after the pandemic, but only one-third believe that it will be possible. In the spring, 57% of British Columbians worked at home at least some of the time.

Nationally, BDC's findings showed that the proportion of small and medium-sized businesses with at least half of their employees doing remote work has doubled, from 21% pre-pandemic to 42%. The average number of days those employees worked remotely was 3.9 per week in March.

Teleworking also was factored into the notable trend of people moving out of large urban centres in Canada with 48% saying that the ability to work remotely was part of their decision.

What remote work offers to employers and employees

There are both benefits and disadvantages for employees and employers. The most important benefits to both are flexible working hours, while the main disadvantage to both is the impact on interaction normally found in offices.

The main advantages:

  • Reduced commuting time (84%)
  • Flexible working hours (62%)
  • Improved life balance (58%).

The main disadvantages:

  • Difficult to interact informally with colleagues (53%)
  • Increased screen fatigue (45%)
  • Difficult not seeing colleagues at work (44%)

Benefits and disadvantages for employers

The main advantages:

  • Flexible working hours (54%)
  • Improved employee retention (35%)
  • Reduced operating costs (34%)

The main disadvantages:

  • Impact on communication, interaction, and collaboration (13%)
  • Teleworking not applicable to all roles (11%)
  • Impact on productivity and efficiency (9%)

Remote work can help a tight labour market

Remote work can give employers the opportunity to hire qualified candidates they wouldn't otherwise have access to geographically, an advantage in Canada's tight labour market.

Teleworking also could help with B.C.'s labour shortage. In June 2021, 57% of B.C. businesses were having difficulties hiring qualified workers.

In this kind of market, remote work could appeal to a younger generation.

In B.C., the 15-to-64 population is growing slower than the demand for labour.

However, while remote work opens hiring opportunities to Canadian entrepreneurs, this is also true for our Southern neighbour. With labour issues beginning to weigh on both sides of the border, competition for talent can become even more intense. For that reason, entrepreneurs should definitely look into how their company can attract but also retain the workers they need.

To find out more about the latest report, visit bdc.ca/remotework.

BDC is the bank for Canadian entrepreneurs. It promotes Canadian entrepreneurship with a focus on small and medium-sized businesses; it works with 62,000 entrepreneurs across the country.

With its 123 business centres from coast to coast, BDC provides businesses in all industries with financing and advisory services. Its investment arm, BDC Capital, offers equity, venture capital and flexible growth and transition capital solutions. BDC is also the first financial institution in Canada to receive B Corp certification. To find out more, visit bdc.ca.