COVID-19 Recovery – Employees Seek Workplace Change with Virtual Work

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Upping the Online Game

Thunder Bay – COVID-19 Recovery – There is going to be a lot of changes happening as Canadians transition to full recovery from the global pandemic.

The growing importance of the Internet and online business has grown dramatically through the course of the pandemic.

The virtual office is now likely a fixture.

“The pandemic challenged Canadians to adapt, to embrace technology as a way of coping with a once in a lifetime public health emergency,” said Byron Holland, president and CEO, CIRA. “Canada’s Internet Factbook shows us that it brought profound changes in attitudes and that there’s no going back. We hope our report provides helpful insight for employers, decision-makers and all of us as we transition into a post-COVID recovery.”

A poll conducted for CIRA indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought transformative, lasting change to Canadians’ use of the internet. Having been forced to work from home, many people now say they want to continue doing so. Among the many changes, more than a third of those surveyed say they would refuse jobs with employers who do not permit virtual work.

While it is no surprise that most people spent more time online in this past year, with massive increases in the use of virtual meetings and online services (half received online medical care for the first time), they don’t seem to be sick of it, as a majority say they don’t plan to unplug more often post-pandemic. At the same time, many are troubled by the risks of online harassment.

Four in Ten Canadians See Facebook at Most Toxic Social Media Site

Facebook remains by far the most popular social media platform, but Canadians have decidedly mixed feelings about it. More than four in 10 Canadians feel Facebook is the most toxic social media site, and 36 per cent say it is the most addictive. Only one in 10 of the people surveyed say Facebook is the most positive site or app they use.

Opportunities for Small to Medium Businesses Online

While giants such as Amazon have prospered, seven in 10 of the people surveyed said they prefer to shop online with Canadian retailers. As a result, small businesses in this country quickly pivoted to establish an online presence which led to a massive increase in .CA domain registrations. .CA domain names registrations jumped from 2.8 million in March 2020—when the pandemic began—to over 3.1 million registrations a year later.

In Ontario the government has funding for Digital Main Street to help businesses make a transition to digital stores and increase their online presence.

The Ontario government is investing $10 million towards the Digital Main Street program for 2021-22 to help over 13,000 small businesses expand their digital presence and market their services online. As businesses enter Step 3 of the Roadmap to Reopen, the renewed program will provide small businesses with $2,500 grants, technical training, and digital resources to help them reach more customers in person and online, positioning them for a stronger recovery.

“Ontario small businesses are the heart of our neighbourhoods and the economic foundation of our communities,” says Nina Tangri, Associate Minister of Small Business and Red Tape Reduction. “Our government is committed to being there for them as they reopen. This additional support will give these businesses the digital boost they need to raise their profile and rebuild better than ever.”

Small businesses across Ontario with a brick-and-mortar location and one to 50 employees can apply for $2,500 Digital Transformation Grants, which they can use to purchase new technology and digital services.

With this additional funding, Digital Main Street will continue to support diverse small business owners throughout the province. To date, the program has provided over 20,000 businesses with support for their digital expansions, while generating jobs for more than 1,600 students and recent graduates.

“Ontario’s small businesses are the backbone of our economy and our communities,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “Through Digital Main Street, we’re giving business owners and operators the tools they need to strengthen their online presence, enhance technical skills and help them recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The findings are in featured CIRA’s annual Canada’s Internet Factbook and draw from a poll conducted by The Strategic Counsel.

Key findings

The full findings are featured in this year’s Canada’s Internet Factbook report and in the poll results here.

  • While many employers plan to re-open their offices, many Canadians prefer to work at home. Thirty-six per cent of survey respondents say they would be unwilling to work for an organization that doesn’t also allow for remote work.
  • More than six in ten Canadians report that their screen time has increased during the pandemic, with 62 per cent saying their children’s screen time has also increased.
  • Half (49 per cent) of Canadians received medical care online for the first time since the pandemic began.
  • More than half of us also attended some kind of virtual event for the first time (55 per cent), with birthday parties, holiday dinners, and exercise classes being the most common.
  • The pandemic has increased Canadians’ Internet obsession, as less than half of Canadians (43 per cent) plan to unplug from the web more often once the pandemic is over.
  • Ordering food online has seen a big increase. One in four Canadians says they are ordering home food delivery more frequently than before the pandemic began.
  • While many Canadians turned to social media to stay connected during the pandemic, one-third reported feeling concerned about online harassment. Women were more likely than men to feel concerned about being harassed, with 39 per cent saying so compared to 29 per cent of men.