Productivity when working from home: 7 insights from Canadian employees 

Published on 2021-03-24 by Sonia Navarrete

Since the pandemic started, employers and employees have been debating productivity when working from home. We surveyed over 1,000 Canadian employees to hear their insights on the matter and understand more about their use of collaboration, online meeting and video conferencing software. 

productivity when working from home in Canada

We also explore the skills they have acquired during the pandemic and see how the recruitment and hiring process looks for those switching roles. Key takeaways include:

  • Employees are split on whether working from home makes them more productive (34% yes vs. 33% no)
  • 44% of employees in Canada picked up at least one new skill during the pandemic
  • 21% of employees changed jobs since the pandemic began

#1 – Is working from home more productive?

The results of the survey show that over a third (34%) of those who began working from home during the pandemic say they are more productive at home. 33% say they were more productive at the worksite, while the rest say that their productivity hasn’t changed significantly.

71% of those who claim their productivity has gotten better say that it’s because of fewer distractions compared with the workplace. 66% say that getting rid of their commute has boosted productivity, while 68% attribute it to more flexible work hours.

#2 – Homelife also has distractions

Conversely, and perhaps confusingly, the main reason cited for lower productivity at home was also “too many distractions”, reported by 52% of respondents. Secondary factors include juggling workload (“I have a hard time staying on top of everything”, 45%) and a lack of in-person time with managers (45%).



It’s clear that distractions are a major drain on productivity – but different workers experience them differently. Single parents, for example, who have had to juggle home-schooling alone at points during the pandemic, are much more likely to favour the workplace for productivity (55% compared to 33% overall). Employers must be aware of their employee’s differing home stops when devising remote working strategies after the pandemic is over.

#3 – 52% use digital tools to manage workload

The proper tools can have a big impact on productivity, and Canadian employees have adopted a range of software to help them during the pandemic.

Given the difficulty many home-workers have in managing workload (see above), 52% have turned to digital methods. The most common choices are calendars (such as those found in popular email software, used by 19%), dedicated to-do tools (15%), project management tools (11%), and spreadsheets, (7%). However, the most popular single method is still pen and paper, favoured by 30% overall, and 17% simply keep a mental log.

73% use file storage or file transfer software. The same proportion (73%) use online communication tools such as video conferencing software, internal chat tools, or voice calling software. These software types have seen a spike in usage because of home working, and are key to maintaining good working relationships and, consequently, good productivity levels. 

#4 – Software choices affect productivity

The results of the survey show that some tools are less popular. Just 37% use ideation software, while 44% use project management software. These figures seem to be reflected in the employee’s own accounts of their productivity. While 33% of those who feel less productive claim that homeworking brings “less room for creativity and brainstorming sessions”, only 37% (of employees overall) use ideation software.

Despite the range of tools available for remote working, 56% of employees who began working from home because of COVID-19 say that their work setup was better in the workplace. This varies by industry: 66% of employees working in accounting saying their setup was better in the office, while 53% of workers in manufacturing say theirs is better at home. 

Once the pandemic is over and companies settle into new working patterns, the correct setup for various types of worker and their location will be a key consideration for employers.

#5 – 44% of employees picked up at least one new skill during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant disruption to all industries. Many employees have consequently had to acquire new skills to work from home to enable COVID-safe working practices, to account for new economic realities, or because their previous job has changed so much.

In Canada, 44% of employees picked up at least one new skill during the pandemic. The majority of these (54%) were offered the training by their employer. The two most common skills reflect the widespread nature of home working and the fact that we are in a global pandemic: 33% of those who developed a new skill reported computer and software skills, with healthcare and wellbeing coming in second at 18%.

Other digital skills were popular, including website and app development (16%), IT security (16%), data analytics (13%), and social media (13%).

#6 – 1 in 5 employees changed jobs

While COVID-19 created economic uncertainty, a significant proportion of employees changed roles. Overall, this was true for 21%, but certain groups report notable deviations: 35% of company directors, for example, found a new job, while in hospitality 31% did the same. 17% in this industry were fired, furloughed, or laid off compared with 6% overall. This fate also disproportionately affected employees whose household income is under $25,000 (12%) and part-time employees (11%). Younger workers also saw more job turbulence, with 39% of 18–25-year-olds and 29% of 26–35-year-olds switching roles.

#7 – The hiring process is overwhelmingly digital

Of those who did move, 75% reported at least some digital aspects to the recruitment and onboarding process. Overall, 25% say that the recruiting and onboarding process for their new job was done entirely in person, but this figure may be skewed by some outliers, such as in households earning less than $25,000 a year, where the figure is 46%. For office workers, for example, the figure is just 6%. 

The most common digital elements are the application itself (46%) followed by the screening and interview process (40%), and the filling out of new hire paperwork (31%).

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Survey methodology

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

In Canada, 1,012  employees aged 18–65 responded to our survey

We surveyed workers at small businesses with 2-250 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.

This article may refer to products, programs or services that are not available in your country, or that may be restricted under the laws or regulations of your country. We suggest that you consult the software provider directly for information regarding product availability and compliance with local laws.

About the author

Senior Content Analyst at Capterra, helping SMEs choose the best software. Published in Raconteur, Computer Weekly and IT Pro. Journalist and PR. Nature, bike and dog lover.

Senior Content Analyst at Capterra, helping SMEs choose the best software. Published in Raconteur, Computer Weekly and IT Pro. Journalist and PR. Nature, bike and dog lover.