woman working from home with her dog

Working from home since the pandemic began has varied substantially across industries, with the highest rates observed in finance and insurance.

Based on StatsCan labour data from April 2020 to June 2021, the finance and insurance sector had the highest proportion of professionals working from home — about 73%.

The professional, scientific and technical services sectors closely followed, with about 70% of employees working from home.

In contrast, about 5% of workers in accommodation and food services worked from home during the period.

Employees of large companies (500 people or more) were also more likely to work from home compared to small ones (fewer than 20 people).

For example, 80% of employees of large firms in professional, scientific and technical services worked from home during the period compared to 54% of their counterparts employed in small firms.

The large differences observed across industries and firm sizes suggest that employers’ preferences for telework post-Covid-19 may differ along these two dimensions, StatsCan said.

Accordingly, many companies in finance and insurance have already announced plans for hybrid (both at the office and at home) or fully flexible work.

Other factors affecting rates of working from home were earnings level and education. Both the highly paid and highly educated were more likely to work from home.

For example, 45% of dual-income salaried couples that fell within the top 10% of earnings had both spouses working from home during the period. Among the bottom 10%, only 5% of couples worked from home.

The data also revealed regional differences, with more workers in Ontario (37%) working from home compared to those in Atlantic Canada and Saskatchewan (roughly 20%).

The discrepancy is in part because of regional differences in industrial structure, StatsCan said. Also, large economic regions generally had higher rates of telework compared to small towns and communities.

Ottawa had the highest rate of people working from home (47%), while as little as 12% did so in small places such as Cape Breton.

Other factors were age (younger workers were half as likely to work from home as older ones) and sex (27% of men worked from home compared to 35% of women).

Overall from April 2020 to June 2021, 30% of employees aged 15 to 64 worked from home, StatsCan said. In 2016, about 4% of employees did so.