Virtual vacuum: What comes next for Canada's remote workers?

The information gap is a key challenge for business leaders

Virtual vacuum: What comes next for Canada's remote workers?

Canada’s new remote workers have embraced change, but their employers have not yet committed to a flexible future, according to a recent survey from VMware Canada.

While nearly nine in 10 (87%) of those who began working remotely for the first time during the COVID-19 pandemic believe it will have a long-term impact on the way we work, just 22% have received confirmation that working arrangements will permanently be more flexible, and only 17% say plans to return to the office have been clearly communicated by their employer. 

The survey reveals that fewer than one in five new remote workers (17%) want to only work in an office environment in the future, with nearly three in five (59%) preferring to work from home more often than they did before or exclusively. Twenty-six per cent of new remote workers say they don’t want to go back to the way they used to work before COVID-19. 

“Canadians want more choice and flexibility in how they work post COVID-19. The evolution in their thinking is outpacing that of employers – they want to know that flexible working is here to stay,” said Sean Forkan, vice president and country manager, VMware Canada.

“The information gap or ‘virtual vacuum’ that has emerged is a key challenge for business leaders to address. The next normal will and needs to be a distributed workforce – employers need to enable working anytime, anywhere and with any technology because working from an office won’t be the standard anymore.” 

Read more: Why remote work isn't for everyone

Reimagining recruitment  
Enabling an anytime, anywhere workforce will not only change the way employees work, but also fundamentally change the way organizations recruit talent, says Forkan.

Without the requirement to travel to a central office, employees have more flexibility to be based where they want to be, while employers gain access to a larger pool of talent. 

 “The shift to remote work is breaking down talent barriers,” said Forkan. “While there will always be roles that have a location requirement, technology is making it possible for the talent net to be cast wider, creating more competition in the market.”

“The best talent may not be located in your city – but with the right technology, they may still be able to do the job effectively, without having to relocate.”

Read more: Key trends around our 'new normal'

Empowering the distributed workforce
As we move towards a distributed workforce, restrictions on technology access are impacting productivity. Nearly half (48%) of the new remote worker cohort say the tools they need to do their job are not easy to access remotely, with 50% saying they don’t have applications on their phones for the three most important tasks in a work week, outside of email. 

Employees are also finding they are slowed by security measures and a lack of program integration. For example, 72% of the new remote worker cohort said they needed multiple passwords to get through the work week – highlighting opportunities to streamline the employee experience to make it easier to access the tools required. 

“The future of work is distributed. Employers across Canada need to take action now to build more resilient workforces that are technologically equipped to operate effectively in remote settings,” said Andrew Caprara, SVP, strategy and business development, Softchoice.

“Softchoice is a VMware partner that helps Canadian organizations unleash the potential of their people with technology. Through our experience enabling remote workforces, driving significant change in behaviour requires that technology and internal culture come together to foster true digital integration and deliver an enhanced employee experience.”

The new remote worker: key findings

  • 49% of Canadians surveyed say they had never worked from home prior to COVID-19
  • 62% do not think employees should be expected to work full-time in an office as the pandemic has shown remote work is possible
  • 57% say the absence of a commute has given them more time and energy for their job
  • 70% miss meeting their colleagues in person 
  • The new remote worker cohort was also more likely to report difficulty accessing all the applications, programs, tools (29%) and files (25%) they needed to work more than those who had prior experience working from home

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