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Few Canadian employers prepared for workforce return

Conference Board of Canada poll organizations on workplace measures and protocols in a pandemic era

Only eight per cent of Canadian organizations are fully prepared to re-open workplaces.

The response came from a poll of employers by the Conference Board of Canada on how prepared they were to deal with the workplace risks of dealing with COVID-19 as social distancing restrictions are eased and the possibility exists of employees returning to the physical workplace.

The Conference Board of Canada is a public policy think-tank specializing in the research of economic trends and organizational performance.

Survey responses were collected on May 11 from 294 participating organizations. 

The poll asked questions on how Canadian organizations are planning to bring employees back to physical workplaces, and what measures they are putting in place. 

“For employees returning to workplaces, safety will be paramount. The virus will likely find loopholes in safety measures we put in place,” said Allison Cowan, the Conference Board's director of human capital.

“Employers will need to continually adapt, and this could include bringing employees back and then having to close workplaces again.”

Among the other survey highlights were that most organizations will ask employees at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to remain home.

With schools and family support services closed, many organizations have indicated that employees with caregiving responsibilities would also be exempt from returning to the workplace.

Employers are favouring a phased approach toward bringing employees back to the workplace. Other measures being implemented include restricting the number of people on site and controlling on-site movement.

Many organizations surveyed indicated a shift to remote work post-pandemic. 

Employers told the Conference Board it’s too early to make decisions about what will be in place long-term but the pandemic presented an opportunity to re-think traditional work.