VANCOUVER -- The COVID-19 pandemic forced a new era of working from home for many B.C. workers, and the majority of those working from home want – and expect - that they will continue to do so after the pandemic ends, according to new research.

What’s more is that many of those who want to continue with their work-from-home arrangement are saying they will seek a different job should they be forced back into the office full time.

The research, which comes in the form of an online poll from Research Co., says that more than half of B.C. workers worked from home at some point during the pandemic. The results, says company president and political analyst Mario Canseco, should come as a warning to employers.

“There’s 49 per cent (of B.C. workers) who say ‘I’d be willing to look elsewhere for another job,’” Canseco said in a phone interview.

Employers, he said, “need to strike that delicate balance.”

“How do you make the office more attractive to employees and also how do you give them flexibility (to work from home)?”

In the online survey of a representative sample, 54 per cent of employed B.C residents say they have worked from home during the pandemic, including 63 per cent of those aged 18 to 34 and 59 per cent of those who reside in Metro Vancouver.

Nearly half of employed B.C. residents foresee fewer in-person staff meetings after the pandemic. More than 40 per cent say they won’t be required to do as much business travel as before the pandemic and that there will be fewer in-person business development meetings at their workplaces once the pandemic ends.

Only 10 per cent who’ve worked from home in the past year believe their post-COVID work arrangements will require them to be back in the office full time. That means the other 90 per cent believe they will have – and want – the flexibility to work from home at least some of the time.

Companies will need to “rethink everything,” Canseco says. For employees who’ve been successfully working from home for more than a year now, it may be hard to force them back into the office.

“You (as the employers) don’t have the authority to say, ‘We’re dissatisfied with how you perform from home,’ because you’re still employed,” Canseco says.

“It’s not as easy as flipping a switch, and I think that’s going to be quite remarkable. We won’t go back to a situation where we say, ‘OK, the pandemic is over, everybody go back to your lives the way they were in 2019.’”

One-third of B.C. residents who have worked from home believe they will be able to keep doing so one or two days per week, 18 per cent believe they’ll be able to do it three or four times per week and a fully 20 per cent foresee it will happen five days per week. Another 20 per cent aren’t sure, and 10 per cent say they expect to be back in the office full time.

Despite the strong desire from many to continue working from home, only a third of those who’ve been plugging away from home during the pandemic say they’ve been informed by their company about what’s planned for when it’s deemed safe to return to the office. Specifically, only 32 per cent of this group have been told how employees will return to the office, and how employees will be able to work from home.

Canseco’s polling company surveyed 700 adult British Columbian workers in early March. The data was statistically weighted according to Canadian census figures for age, gender and region in the province. The margin of error—which measures sample variability—is +/- 3.7 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.