Sage recently conducted a survey of more than 800 finance leaders across Canadian small and midsize businesses, the findings of which have been released in a new report from Sage: Forward Together 2021 . The report indicates that Canadian businesses are united in their belief that employee welfare will be key to post-pandemic recovery strategies.
When asked what they are most concerned about related to their employees for the remaining 2021, business leaders identified the following challenges:
- Burnout (47%)
- Employees feeling safe when returning to the physical workplace (43%)
- Adjusting to a hybrid work-from-home/work from office model (23%)
- Low productivity (22%)
From an industry perspective, not surprisingly, the public sector (including healthcare) and not-for-profit sector show significantly higher concerns about burnout (60%).
Remote work may also have made some business leaders’ concerns more acute. 55% of business leaders in organizations with employees working at 81–100% remotely are concerned about employee burnout, higher
than the 47% average.
Business leaders are responding to these various issues differently. Of those concerned about employees feeling safe to return to the workplace, 51% are already taking action. In contrast, of those concerned about employee
burnout, only 32% have taken action, with no significant differences among industry sectors.
Of those concerned about a hybrid work model, only 37% have addressed the issue, but the consumer industries are significantly more prepared, with 67% saying they have taken action to address the issue.
From the workers’ perspective, one in three (32%) employees are concerned about burnout.
23% are concerned about feeling safe when returning to the physical workplace. Only 14% of workers express concern about adjusting to a hybrid work-model, with more workers in the knowledge and professional services (22%) expressing such concern.
Arrangements for the Future Workplace
From the business leaders’ perspective, remote work is here to stay. Among businesses that currently have remote employees, a majority (76%) will continue to allow employees to work from home in various degrees within a hybrid
model. The level of flexibility is partly dictated by the nature of the industry:
- Knowledge and professional services (85%)
- Industrial sector and natural resources (73%)
- Public sector and not-for-profit (72%)
- Consumer industries (66%)
The tenure of the business also shows some variance:
- Under 5 years (86%)
- 6–10 years (89%)
- 10 years or more (74%)
Business leaders in Ontario (80%) and Quebec (81%) are most readily embracing this hybrid work arrangement trend, relative to British Columbia (70%).
Business leaders are also demonstrating confidence that the hybrid work arrangement is working and also necessary. 42% cited increasing productivity and 41% cited attracting and retaining talent as the main factors for allowing employees to work from home while 34% said mitigating burnout is a factor. Workers employed at companies allowing remote work are somewhat aligned to these business leaders’ expectations, but they agree on the three priorities to a lesser degree:
- Attract and retain talent (31%)
- Increase productivity (27%)
- Mitigate burnout (26%)
The three identified factors resonate most within the knowledge and professional services industries among leaders and workers alike, but diverge most in the public sector and not-for-profit.