Remote working has changed the willingness of Canadians to travel

After more than a year of working from home, many Canadians are not ready to give up the benefits of avoiding commuting to work.

According to a recent to study Conducted by Angus Reid on behalf of flexible workspace provider International Workplace Group (IWG), nearly a third of Canadians want a commute of no more than 15 minutes. Another 22% want to work entirely from home and almost 40% want a hybrid mode that combines in-person and remote work. Overall, only 12 percent of the more than 1,500 employed Canadian respondents are willing to travel more than 15 minutes to get to work daily.

According to Statistics Canada, Canadians spent an average of 24 minutes commuting to work in 2016, and more than 850,000 workers spent more than an hour moving in each direction each day.

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“People want to eliminate commuting for work that is not motivated by a goal,” says Wayne Berger, general manager of the Americas for IWG. “They want the ability to structure their days, or where they need to be each day, based on what’s required. “

The change in attitude towards commuting represents a significant departure from a long-standing standard that dictated everything from how businesses run to the design of cities.

“This represents an opportunity for cities, provinces and municipalities to start rethinking urbanization,” said Berger. “This will help alleviate the stress on a taxed infrastructure and an overly extensive public transport system. “

The growing demand for a ride of 15 minutes or less validates a concept that has long been championed by planners and developers. Many – including former Toronto chief urban planner and founder of Markee Developments, Jennifer Keesmaat – have been promoting the concept of neighborhoods that provide residents with all of their basic needs within walking or cycling distance.

“The long commute to work was an unintended consequence of poor city design and car-driven sprawl,” she says. “What happened during COVID was that many people were able to continue working without having to make the long commute, and it raised the possibility in our imaginations and minds that it was possible to live and to work without a long commute. “

Ms. Keesmaat is one of 100 Canadian personalities who signed a Declaration for Resilience in Canadian Cities in 2020, urging Canadian governments to use the pandemic to rethink urban design. One of the declaration’s 20 recommendations includes a commitment to create 15-minute neighborhoods “in which it is possible to live, work, shop and age in place,” according to the declaration.

The benefits of shorter commute times for Canadians are numerous, says Ms. Keesmaat, ranging from reducing greenhouse gas emissions, to reducing infrastructure spending, to providing individuals with more. free time and a better overall quality of life.

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“It’s about making the transition to creating more complete communities, which have sufficient density, a mix of uses and a mix of housing types that allow for a variety of things to be done within 15 minutes of the city. house, ”she said. “Unlike the traditional suburban model where you can’t do anything within 15 minutes of your home. “

The demand for reduced commuting time also comes at a particularly opportune time for workers. In recent months, employers have struggled to hire and retain talent, adding additional weight to employee demands. In fact, 29 percent of IWG survey respondents said they would look for another job if they had to commute five days a week.

“The war for talent is real and has escalated,” said TJ Schmaltz, director of human resources and legal at Prospera Credit Union and chair of the board of directors of Chartered Human Resources Professionals (CHRP) Canada. “A number of our employees in British Columbia have said ‘If you ask me to return to work full time, or come back to this normal schedule, I will look to go elsewhere,’ and I have heard this from our members. across Canada.

Schmaltz warns, however, that there is often a mismatch between what employees expect and what employers are willing to offer in terms of flexibility.

“There are employees who say, ‘flexibility means that I can work from home regularly, but I will also come to the office and have my office or my designated office when I want it,’” he says. . “In the future, employers will have to find the balance between ‘we can give you flexibility, but it goes both ways’, and you might consider more shared space, or hotel space, when you are there. Desk.”

Schmaltz says employees need to be realistic and understand that the level of flexibility they demand may not be compatible with the needs of the business. At the same time, he warns employers to take these demands seriously, as flexibility and the ability to reduce commute time becomes a key employee demand in a highly competitive hiring landscape.

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