indicatorThe Twenty-Four

Not the norm

Working remotely in Alberta by industry

By Rob Roach, ATB Economics 30 May 2024 2 min read

At the height of the pandemic, it was common to hear “with everyone working from home…”. The problem with this, of course, is that not everybody was working from home. Even at its peak in April 2020, the proportion of Canadians working from home was well below half at 40%.

What type of work you do, what industry you are in, the expectations of your employer and personal preference all play a role here.

The relative cost of living in different places is also a potential factor. We’ve recently explored the sharp rise in the number of Canadians working at home for an employer in a different province and argue that this option enables interprovincial migrants to be more responsive to non-labour market factors such as housing affordability.

With that in mind, new survey results from Statistics Canada help us understand where remote work is, and isn’t, taking place by industry. Before delving deeper, it is important to note that remote work does not necessarily mean working from home. Taxi drivers, for example, work remotely but it’s not from home.

When asked what percentage of their employees they anticipate will be working on-site versus remotely over the next three months, the average across Alberta respondents was 71%. (The survey was conducted from April 2 to May 6, 2024.)

Another 10% were expected to work most of their hours on-site while 8% would work approximately the same number of hours on-site and remotely; 6% mostly remotely; and 7% exclusively off-site. It’s about the same breakdown nationally.

Clearly, on-site work remains the dominant arrangement.

This holds true across all of the main industry categories (see the chart below), but there are some interesting differences.

At the top end, accommodation and food service sector employers anticipate that 97% of their staff will be working all or most of their hours on-site. Hybrid work arrangements are either rare or tilted heavily toward the on-site component.

Even in a sector like my own‒finance and insurance‒almost three-quarters of workers are on-site (i.e., in the office or branch) all or most of the time.

The transportation and warehousing sector has the smallest percentage of workers spending all or most of their hours on-site, but as noted above, some of the remote work can be attributed to jobs like driving a truck or piloting a plane rather than “working from home” (or on a laptop from a coffee shop).

Combining the categories of working half remotely, mostly remotely and entirely remotely (and excluding transportation and warehousing) the professional, scientific and technical services sector has the largest share of workers spending half or more of their time off-site followed by those in the information and cultural industries sector at 36% (see the second chart below).

So even though hybrid work arrangements are quite common, they are not the norm and their prevalence varies greatly across industries. It remains to be seen how technology does, or doesn’t, change these ratios over time.

Answer to the previous trivia question: Former Chair of the U.S. Federal Reserve Bernanke said: “Optimism is a good thing. It makes people go out and start businesses and spend and do whatever is necessary to get the economy going”

Today’s trivia question: When was the first email sent?

Working remotely is least common in the accomdation and food services sector

Working remotely is least common in the accomdation and food services sector

Working remotely is most common in the transportation and warehousing sector

Working remotely is most common in the transportation and warehousing sector

Economics News

Subscribe and get a quick daily snapshot of what’s happening in Alberta’s economy

Need help?

Our Client Care team will be happy to assist.