It’s almost 2021 and millions of people in Canada are still working from home full time with no end in sight. Many Canadians wish to continue to work from home once the pandemic ends, and several companies are planning to make a permanent shift to the remote work setting for their employees.
In his recent research, Jean-Nicolas Reyt, assistant professor of organizational behavior at McGill University, analyzed the language chief executive officers used in quarterly earnings calls with analysts and investors. He says while discussion of remote work was limited in the years prior to 2020, it was the main focus in the public companies’ earnings calls this year.
Here’s what Reyt says Canada’s top CEOs believe about remote work and its future in the corporate landscape from analysis of hundreds of such calls:
After spending some time working from home, many CEOs began to view remote work in a favourable light
CEOs of basic service companies — those in banking, telecommunication and insurance — that collectively employ hundreds of thousands of call centre staff were the first to claim a successful transition to remote work.
Videotron CEO Jean-Francois Pruneau confirmed on his company’s earnings call last August that his call centre staff is “assuring the same standards of excellence for our customers.”
Michel Letellier, CEO of the renewable energy company Innergex, said: “I must say that it changed the way I see work from home. I was a little bit skeptical at the beginning, but boy, it shows that we could still be quite efficient.”
Remote work can help recruit more experienced people
Some companies have identified that offering remote work options might help them recruit higher-profile and international talent.
A recent ADP Canada survey indicates 61 per cent of millennials will be happier if they worked from home for part of the work week.
Feeling isolated a challenge for many remote workers
Some CEOs think teams are at risk of losing their sense of togetherness, and the possibility of damaging the company culture is a deal-breaker for them.
For many of them, however, the optimal solution might end up being a compromise between working from home and going to the office each week. For example, John Chen, Blackberry’s CEO, said in his September earnings call: “If everybody worked from home forever, it will hurt productivity, it will hurt innovation. But I think there will be a hybrid model.”
Many CEOs say future of urban life is uncertain with remote work
Letting employees work from home has significantly reduced the real-estate footprint of most organizations.
Amy Shapero, CFO of the e-commerce platform Shopify, said in her company’s earnings call in July: “Most of our employees will work remotely on a permanent basis and leverage our office spaces when it makes sense.”
In the same vein, many other organizations announced closure of office facilities and a permanent shift to remote work.
Jamie Farrar, CEO of City Office REIT, said that “discussions with tenants and leasing brokers highlight the overall uncertainty regarding future space needs,” with tenants having difficulties “determining their future space requirements.”