workplace wellness of Canadian remote workers

In 2020, millions of employees across Canada discovered working from home for the first time. They had to get used to meeting, collaboration and HR software almost overnight.

But this was much more than a few simple changes to working habits – it affected people’s home lives as well. 

To find out what impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on workplace wellbeing, we asked more than 1,000 Canadian employees about the pros and cons of remote work and how things have changed for them since they began working from home.

Highlights of the study:

  • 32% of Canadian employees who began working from home during the pandemic feel more stressed, but 38% feel less stressed.
  • 33% of employees like their job more now than before the pandemic began.
  • 73% of home workers report symptoms of burnout.
  • 85% of home workers want to continue doing so, at least part-time.
  • Young employees working from home are more likely to feel burnout, but also to discuss it with their boss.
remote work and wellbeing canada smes

Working from home affects stress levels, but not consistently

Of the 1,012 employees we surveyed, 30% started working at home during the pandemic. As well as having to deal with the stress of COVID-19 and its economic fallout, these workers have the challenge of continuing their jobs from home in close contact with their personal and family lives. Although 38% say they are less stressed compared to before the pandemic, this hasn’t been the case for everyone.

32% say that their stress levels have risen. The top causes of additional stress are no separation between work and personal life (reported by 44%), pressure from workload (37%), and fear of losing a job (36%).

The results of the survey show increased stress levels for around a third of Canadian remote workers. For many, this is driven by their new work environment. Employers must consider this when planning their return-to-work strategies.

level of stress of remote working employees

Workers’ opinion of their employers is improving

When asked about the attitude towards their employer, over a third of respondents (33%) like their job and employer more now, while for 45%, their attitude has not changed. Of those whose opinion has worsened, the main factor was that the job has become monotonous, boring, or repetitive (reported by 45%), but 32% highlighted their company’s unsatisfactory response to the pandemic itself.

In 49% of cases, employees report that their managers reached out to them—either individually or as part of group communication—to discuss workplace wellness (specifically their mental wellbeing). When asked whether their relationship with their manager was better at the worksite or at home, 44% said it was about the same, with only 16% saying that it was better since they began working at home.

With employees no longer in the same workspace, managers must be proactive in spotting and addressing the causes and symptoms of stress. The Mental Health Commission of Canada has resources to help employers create a mentally healthy workplace.

Employees recognize the pros and cons of remote work

We asked respondents whether they find the home or the work site better for various aspects of their job. 

  • 56% said it was better for workplace setup.
  • 68% said it was better for collaborating with co-workers.
  • 67% said it was better at creating a connection to the company culture.
  • 42% said it gave them better job satisfaction 
  • More said their chances of career progression or promotion were better at the worksite (35%) than at home (15%).

Despite all this, 85% of employees who began working at home during the pandemic said they would like to continue doing so in the future. Only 14% would like to stay at home full-time—but the rest would be happy with a hybrid, with a 50/50 split between home and work being the most popular choice.

This willingness to work from home may be because 55% see it as providing a better work-life balance than the worksite. This was the only area in which home working was preferred.

73% of remote workers report symptoms of work burnout

While less than one-third of employees who started home working in 2020 say they feel more stressed, nearly three-quarters (73%) report at least one symptom of burnout.

The World Health Organisation defines burnout as an “occupational phenomenon … resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”. It is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, reduced professional efficacy, and detachment from one’s job.

Of the remote workers surveyed, the most widely reported symptoms of burnout were feelings of isolation (34%), trouble sleeping (30%), and difficulty concentrating (28%).

When asked to quantify their burnout directly, only 2% said they had experienced “extreme” levels, with a further 8% reporting “significant” burnout.

73% remote wrkers report a certain degree of burnout

Managers should bear in mind the complications of the pandemic and remote working when looking at workplace wellness and look to provide tools to employees to help them.

Young employees feel the negative effects of home working more

There was a clear trend that employees of different ages experienced working from home differently. For example:

  • 80% of 18–25-year-old employees say they have experienced work burnout This number decreased steadily through the age groups:
  • 78% for 26–35-year-olds
  • 73% for 36–45-year-olds
  • 57% for 46–55-year-olds
  • 49% for 56–65-year-olds

Younger employees are more likely to talk about mental wellbeing with their manager. 71% of 18–25-year-old respondents had done so. This proportion decreased steadily as employees got older, dropping to 34% of employees in the 56–65 year bracket.

Employees under 25 also grew to like their jobs and employers more. 41% said their opinion had become more favourable since the pandemic began, compared with 22% of older workers and 30–35% of workers in other age brackets.

Companies are getting used to having employees from different generations in the workplace. As such, managers should consider how a more segmented approach to employee wellbeing could meet people’s needs more effectively.

Looking for Talent Management software? Check our catalogue

Survey methodology

The Capterra HR in the New Era Survey 2021 was conducted in January 2021.

We surveyed workers at small businesses with 2-500 employees in the following countries:

  • Germany (1,098 responses)
  • United Kingdom (1,050 responses)
  • Canada (1,012 responses)
  • France (1,001 responses)
  • Italy (1,000 responses)
  • Spain (999 responses)
  • Brazil (994 responses)
  • United States (922 responses)
  • Netherlands (883 responses)

The responses are a representative sample (by age and gender) of each country’s population. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood the meaning and the topic at hand.