Almost half of employed Canadian women likely to quit job if asked to return to office full-time 

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June 15, 2022 – The Prosperity Project released the results of a new Pollara Strategic Insights survey today, with fascinating findings for employers to pay heed to. This – the 5th survey in The Prosperity Project – Pollara series of Canadian Household Perspectives surveys – surveyed employed women to understand their views and preferences for their working situations as society continues to re-open.

Fewer Canadian women (62%) are working full-time now as compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic (70%). While three-quarters (73%) acknowledged that employers were more accommodating during the pandemic, a similar proportion (72%) expect employers to put the priority on in-person office work going forward. However, the vast majority of women (91%) would prefer to work remotely most or part of the time in the foreseeable future.

  • Nearly six-in-ten feel they will have to choose between their career and their family – at a time when almost half (46%) said the pandemic has increased their responsibilities at home.
  • More than six-in-ten (63%) said they would turn down promotions in order to keep working from home.
  • Most alarmingly, almost half (45%) are more likely to quit their jobs if working from home at least part of the time is not an option.

“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 Andrea Spender, CEO of The Prosperity Project, a registered charity created to ensure Canadian women are not left behind in the COVID-19 recovery.

The research also highlighted mixed views on the impact of the pandemic, with a third (35%) of working women saying their careers are in a better place now, compared to 29% who said they are worse off than two years ago and 36% saying their career condition had not changed.  Opinions were also mixed on what the end of the pandemic could mean for career prospects, with three-in-ten (29%) optimistic that there will be more opportunities ahead and a quarter (24%) believing there will be fewer opportunities. However, the research shows many Canadian women are concerned that the better paying and higher level jobs are more likely to be offered to men than to themselves. 

A plurality (44%) of women are excited about their career prospects, while one-third (33%) are not.

“We learned important lessons about workplace flexibility during the pandemic, and we must continue to heed those lessons,” said Pamela Jeffery, founder of The Prosperity Project. “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.”

Other highlights from the study:

  • Working from Home:  All of the women surveyed were working full-time in January 2019. During the pandemic, almost half (46%) went from working outside the home to working from home. Of those who started working remotely, 71% continue to work from home at least part of the time, with 28% returning to work in-person at the office most or all of the time. 
  • Return to In-Person Office Work: – Half of the respondents believe they will be returning to working in the office, either with a hybrid model (31%) or in the office full-time (2%), while 8% said their employer no longer has an office, and 17% believe they will have a choice of where they will work. Approximately half of the women surveyed (51%) are fine with their organization’s plan regarding going back to the office. A fifth (19%) said it is not exactly what they want, but they aren’t concerned about it, and 18% are concerned about how they will make it work.
  • Home/Office Preferences:  The vast majority (91%) of women surveyed want to work remotely at least part of the time. Almost three-quarters (73%) of women would prefer to work from home all (42%) or most (31%) of the time. One-fifth (22%) would rather spend all (9%) or most (13%) of their work time in the office.
  • Advancement:  In terms of career advancement, 28% of working women are considering but not actively looking to advance, 22% are actively looking, and 19% said they could be open to advancement if the right opportunity came along. Racialized women are more likely to be actively looking to advance their careers (31%).
  • Barriers:  For half (52%) of the working women with kids under 18, balancing their career with being a good parent is the major barrier. Only a sixth (16%) said it is not a barrier at all. Work-life balance is cited as a barrier for almost two-thirds (64%) of the women surveyed.
  • Childcare – Those working from home during the pandemic and having kids under 12 are somewhat (37%) to very (24%) concerned about going back to work in-person. Younger women are most likely to be concerned about going back into the office. More than half of the women surveyed (55%) are primarily responsible for child care. Only 7% said their partner/spouse are responsible and over a third (35%) share the responsibilities equally.
  • Finances:  Views on women’s financial situations were almost evenly split: A third (33%) said they are in a better place in terms of their finances, with almost an equal number (37%) saying they are in a worse place, and 30% reporting no change in their finances. Younger women are likely to be in a better place with their finances (46% amongst those aged 18-34, 30% for 35-54, and 20% for 55+).

“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. “Amid this uncertainty, many Canadian working women are understandably apprehensive about their future.”

These are some of the findings of The Prosperity Project’s 5th Canadian Household Perspectives survey, conducted by Pollara Strategic Insights from May 12 to May 17, 2022. The online survey interviewed a randomly-selected, reliable sample of N=800 employed adult women across Canada. As a guideline, a probability sample of N=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.

The survey is part of The Prosperity Project’s Canadian Households’ Perspective on the New Economy initiative. Partner organizations in the initiative are CIBC, Enterprise Canada, and Pollara Strategic Insights. Launched in May 2020, The Prosperity Project is a volunteer-driven, registered charity conceived by a diverse group of 62 female leaders from across the country – women who have historically made a difference and are committed to continuing to promote positive change as active participants in The Prosperity Project. 

Please visit The Prosperity Project website for more information about this study or the organization itself.   

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