Back to the office? No thanks!

More than two-thirds of workers don’t want to return to the office – and distancing measures means there may not be office space for them anyway

Glacier Media
June 24, 2020

 Back to the office
— Disappearing office workers. | CBRE

More than two-thirds of British Columbians say they do not feel comfortable leaving the safety of their home office to return to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That’s according to a recent survey by Insights West, which found that by September, if given the choice, only 31 per cent would choose to go back to work.
A similar trend is seen across Canada. The latest study from the Angus Reid Institute reveals only one-third of Canadians working remotely expect to resume working from the office as consistently as they did pre-pandemic.
Among those working from home, (just under one-third of Canada’s adult population) only 36 per cent say they will likely go back to their place of work when COVID-19 restrictions subside. Most who work remotely anticipate splitting time between their workplace and home, while one-in-five say they will remain primarily at home, the national survey showed.
In B.C. 19 per cent told the Insight pollsters they would choose to work from home “forever,” with 78 per cent of respondents saying that catching COVID-19 from a co-worker was their biggest concern.
The poll, which was released on the cusp of the province’s transition from its phase 2 to its phase 3 re-opening of economy, found that only 20 per cent of workers were “very comfortable” with returning to work, despite relatively low caseloads of the virus in B.C. 
 Older respondents were also less comfortable than their younger counterparts in heading back to the office, with 55 per cent of those older than 55 saying they were not comfortable returning. By comparison, 65 per cent of those between 19-34 and 66 per cent of those between 35-54 said they were comfortable returning to their workplace.
The biggest concerns about returning to the workplace centred around appropriate physical distancing, with 44 per cent saying they were concerned their company wasn’t doing enough to mitigate the risks. Given the choice, most said they would prefer to go back to work when there were either zero COVID-19 cases or a vaccine became available.  
A study of social-distancing measures shows that, if all offices mandated distancing, millions of people would not be able to return to work even if they wanted to.
“These measures will mean 60 per cent of the country’s 11.8 million desks will be unusable when a two metre, or six-foot, gap between staff is introduced, meaning 7.8 million people will have to continue working from home daily,” noted JanJaap Boogaard, head of Colliers International’s workplace advisory service.
When it comes to productivity at home, 29 per cent of British Columbians said they are more productive than at the office.
A national survey by Colliers, meanwhile, found that employers believe that work-at-home employees are 22.6 per cent less productive.
“This pandemic could permanently alter how we live and work for years to come,” said Insights West president Steve Mossop in a written statement.
“This could have drastic implications for commercial real estate, company team-building and socialization, and the infrastructure needed to support productivity in the workplace.” 
The Insight poll was conducted between June 18 and 21 with a group of 879 B.C. residents and has a margin of error of +/- 3.3 percentage points.

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