One in three remote workers would quit their job and look for a new one if their employer asked them to return to the office on a full-time basis, a new survey has found.

The online survey by global staffing firm Robert Half found that 33 per cent of Canadian respondents currently working from home due to the pandemic are not interested in going back to their pre-COVID work life. 

“As we reimagine the future of work, now is the time for managers to engage in mindful discussions with their teams to determine what they most want and need,” said David King, Canadian senior district president of Robert Half, in a news release.

Just over half of those surveyed (51 per cent) said they would prefer a hybrid work arrangement where they can divide their time between the office and a remote location.

Respondents pointed to several supports their employers could provide to ease the transition back to the office including an ability to set preferred hours, contributions to commuting costs, a relaxed dress code, providing childcare, and access to a personal, distraction-free workspace.

CTV Chief Financial Commentator Patricia Lovett-Reid said that there are definitely elements of office life that remote workers miss, including relationships with co-workers.

The survey found that 59 per cent said relationships with their co-workers could suffer from full-time remote work. Additionally, 21 per cent of employees said there are fewer career advancement opportunities due to a lack of visibility to their bosses.

“I have spoken to human resource professionals,” said Lovett-Reid. “I’ve asked: ‘How do you feel about employees pushing back?’ and many have said: ‘Well, there are a lot of people who are willing to come in.’”

“It is all about communication, making sure people feel safe and trying to come to a happy medium.”

Ryan Watkins, partner at Whitten & Lublin Employment Lawyers, said the results of this survey “make sense” as work-from-home has gained traction.

“The pandemic has taught employers that employees can work from home and do it successfully,” he said in an email to BNN Bloomberg, adding that a work-from-home policy could help boost employee morale.

“Employers could be left behind by their competitors if they do not have a remote work policy. However, employers also need to be practical, and it may not work for everyone.”

Another employment lawyer, Torys LLP counsel Darryl Hiscocks, questioned how long this narrative will last.

“Will there be enough remote work to go around after the dust settles and employers decide that they wish to recall employees to the office? The answer will probably be ‘no’ in many cases,” he said in an email.

“Many employers should be – and are – considering these matters and balancing the pros and cons of whether to require staff to return to the office full-time – including giving due consideration to the ‘flight risk’ of losing valuable staff.”

The online survey was conducted between March 9 and 16. A total of 500 workers were surveyed.