Leger poll suggests 19% of Canadians don’t want to return to working at the office

As we continue to hear about a return to normal, some Canadians have started thinking about returning to the office.

A recent poll by Leger and the Association for Canadian Studies suggested people are divided when it comes to packing up their home offices for good.

The poll found 19 per cent of Canadians say they never want to go back to the office, while 20 per cent already have their morning commute back to work planned out.

However, some experts in Sudbury said for a lot of people, it’s too early to be thinking about what the future could look like with no definitive plans in place.

“I think right now we are seeing individuals are still very much in the day-to-day of the pandemic,” said Chantal Makela, CEO of Spark Employment Services in Sudbury. “So they’re still dealing with living within a lockdown and restrictions and so right now the concern is work today.”

Makela said that for many, working back in an office isn’t even a thought yet.

“What people are still seeing today is that the option of working from home is still something that people are very much looking for because it assists everyone in their circumstance, being that sometimes they have care of the children, care of elderly, of pets and so forth," he said. "So working from home is still an option that people are looking for today.”

More than 1,600 Canadians took part in the poll, which found 40 per cent would prefer to return to the office part time.

“There are a lot of people that do want to return to the office,” said Zulich Enterprises Ltd. CEO Paul Zulich. “I think the creativity, the collaboration that you get only from an office environment is really important and people are desiring to get back to a workspace.”

Challenges during pandemic

Zulich Enterprises has more than 300,000 square feet of office space around Sudbury and has seen some challenges during the pandemic.

“We did lose the Canadian Cancer Society -- at the end of their lease they decided not to renew based on the pandemic," Zulich said. "Northeastern Tourism as well, which as you can understand the tourism industry took it right on the chin. So there are a few of the non profits, I mean it all comes down to revenue and during a pandemic there’s just been no way to fundraise.”

However, for the most part, he said many businesses are just waiting to see what the future holds.

“You can’t make a decision in a vacuum and that’s what’s going on now," he said. "We just don’t have enough information to make any long-term commitments.”

The poll also found 35 per cent of respondents said if they were ordered back to the office, they would start looking for another job where working from home is an option.

“I do believe in the future a hybrid model or the option of working from home will be something that we will have to continue exploring and it will become something that some people will always be looking for,” said Makela.

However, both Makela and Zulich said that they’d be surprised if working in an office didn’t make a comeback.

“We’re all social animals so we do want to get back together and like I said, the collaboration and excitement of working in a team atmosphere… I think it will come back,” said Zulich.

“I think it will surprise me [in the future] if the majority are looking to work from home," Makela said.

"I think it is something we’ve gotten used to and comfortable with, but as everything lifts and things go to back to somewhat normal, I think some normalcy and going back and socializing with our work environment and our peers will be something people will quickly readjust to.”

The poll also found 82 per cent of Canadians said working from home during the pandemic was a positive experience overall.