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Women concerned about return to office: survey

As workplaces shift back to in-person or hybrid models, a new survey suggests nearly half of Canadian women would quit their jobs if asked to return to the office full time.

According to The Prosperity Project’s Canadian Household Perspectives survey, 63 per cent of women said they would turn down promotions at work if it meant they could keep working from home, with 45 per cent saying they were more likely to quit their jobs if working from home for at least a few days of the week is no longer an option.

In addition, the survey released on Wednesday found 91 per cent of women said they would prefer to have the majority or at least part of their job done remotely moving forward.

“As organizations create post-pandemic work strategies, this research sheds light on what women are thinking and feeling about work and their careers. A majority would like the flexibility offered during the pandemic to continue, specifically the option to work remotely some of the time,” said The Prosperity Project CEO Andrea Spender in a press release.

The online survey was conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights, in partnership with CIBC and Enterprise Canada, in mid-May and looked at 800 employed women across the country.

While 73 per cent of those surveyed acknowledged that employers were more accommodating during the pandemic, the survey found a similar proportion at 72 per cent also expect their employers to prioritize in-person office work going forward.

“This research tells us some changes brought about by the pandemic were actually improvements for working women, but there’s still uncertainty about whether they’re permanent,” said Pollara Senior Vice-President Lesli Martin in the release. “Amid this uncertainty, many Canadian working women are understandably apprehensive about their future.”

According to the survey, nearly 60 per cent of women said they feel they will have to choose between their career and their family, with 46 per cent saying the pandemic has increased their responsibilities at home.

More than half of the women surveyed (55 per cent) noted they are primarily responsible for child care in their household, with only seven per cent reporting that their partner or spouse handle child care, while 35 per cent said they share the responsibilities equally.

The survey found 52 per cent of working women with kids under 18 said balancing their career with being a good parent is the major barrier for returning to work in an office. Of those surveyed, 18 per cent said they were concerned about how they will balance family priorities if they had to return to the office.

The survey found that half of the respondents believe they will be returning to working in the office, either via a hybrid model (31 per cent) or in-person full-time (23 per cent), while eight per cent said their employer no longer has an office to return to. In addition, 17 per cent said they believe they will have a choice as to where they want to work.

Of those surveyed, only one-fifth said they would want to spend all or most of their work day in the office. Overall, the survey found fewer Canadian women are working full-time at 62 per cent compared to 70 per cent prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pamela Jeffery, founder of The Prosperity Project, said employers have gained a greater understanding on the value of workplace flexibility for employees throughout the pandemic, adding that they “must continue to heed those lessons.”

“Canada’s economic growth needs women contributing. Enabling women to balance their careers and home responsibilities – through hybrid home/office work and other adjustments, with equal opportunity for promotion and advancement – is a critical priority,” Jeffery said in the release.


The Prosperity Project is a registered charity and the survey is part of its Canadian Households’ Perspective on the New Economy initiative.

On behalf of The Prosperity Project, Pollara Strategic Insights conducted an online survey between May 12 and May 17 among a randomly-selected group of 800 Canadian Women above the age of 18 who were employed full-time. As a guideline, a probability sample of 800 carries a margin of error of ± 3.5, 19 times out of 20. The margin of error is larger for sub-segments. The dataset was weighted by the most current age and region Census data, to ensure the sample reflects the actual population of women in Canada.



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