Flexibility the key to retaining women workers: survey

Following back-to-office notices issued by businesses across the country, a new study published on Tuesday suggests the flexibility of working from home is more important than salary to many Canadian workers – especially women.

Study authors said the data from a survey of more than 1,300 working adults suggests that in order to retain women in the workplace, employers must offer the option at least some of the time.

“The pandemic forced millions of Canadians to change where and how they work. For most, especially women, a more flexible work life is welcomed and preferred,” said Abacus Data chair and CEO David Coletto, who led the research, in a news release. “Employers who want to recruit and retain women must recognize that flexibility is now table stakes.”

The survey found that 72 per cent of those who identified as women consider work-from-home flexibility as “extremely” or “quite” important. The survey was conducted by Abacus Data on behalf of The Honest Talk, a podcast focused on women entrepreneurs and professionals.

Those behind the survey asked how often respondents would like to work from home, given a choice, and found a “gender gap” when analyzing the results.

Abacus Data said the women surveyed would choose to work from home about two-thirds of the time. Male respondents said they’d choose to work from home a bit less often – about half the time.

A similar gender gap was noted when looking specifically at parents. Of those with children under the age of 15, about two-thirds of mothers said they want to spend most of their workdays at home, while 51 per cent of dads said the same.

On average, Canadians reported they wanted to work at home 58 per cent of the time.

According to the study, Canadians’ views towards work have been significantly changed due to pandemic.

Information that may be of use for employers looking to retain their workers is how important flexibility has become.

Working from home is a top priority for women, with 42 per cent saying they would give up a higher salary if it meant they could work from home as much as they like. This is 10 per cent higher than the number of men who said the same.

“Simply going back to the way things were done pre-pandemic is not going to be an option for many workplaces,” said Jennifer Stewart, co-founder of The Honest Talk in a press release. “It’s important that leaders understand what employees and potential candidates value in a job as they make these critical decisions around a future workplace.”

As well, 51 per cent of respondents reported experiencing a positive effect on their work-life balance due to changes brought about during the pandemic, according to the study.

More than half (54 per cent) of working adults believe that the pandemic caused positive changes in the amount of free time they have and 42 per cent of respondents said it has had a positive influence on the relationship between work and their mental health.

Survey methodology:

The survey was conducted among 1,313 working adults across the country from Jan. 12 to 16. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.8 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population of working adults according to age, gender, educational entertainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

Reporting for this story was paid for through The Afghan Journalists in Residence Project funded by Meta.

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