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Remote Job Postings Triple During Pandemic, But Will It Last?

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Many remote postings tagged as “temporarily remote.”

Key Points:

  • Some 11.4% of job postings on Indeed Canada in March 2021 mentioned remote work, nearly triple the pre-pandemic share.
  • Remote opportunities have increased across the economy, but are especially common in sectors like tech and marketing. 
  • White-collar job postings — which tend to be more remote-friendly — are generally less common in smaller cities, but employers in such places looking to fill these positions are often just as likely to mention remote work in job descriptions as those in larger metros.
  • In March, 61% of remote postings added to Indeed that specified were designated as “temporarily remote,” a sign that a substantial share of the rise in fully remote work is likely to reverse once the crisis has passed. 

Beyond the layoffs during the pandemic, few recent labour market trends stand out more than the shift to remote work. About 27% of Canadian workers in March 2021 were working remotely, roughly double the pre-pandemic level. This share is especially high given that many jobs can’t be performed outside a physical work site. Less clear though is how much of this increase will persist once workplaces are safe again and what form remote work will take.

The surge in Canadians working from home is evident in job postings on Indeed. We track remote work opportunities by tallying job ads that include terms related to remote work, like “remote work,” “work from home,” and “télétravail,” in their job descriptions.

Mentions of remote work were gradually rising before the pandemic. In February 2020,  remote-related terms were included in 3.8% of Canadian postings. Shortly after the pandemic hit, such job ads surged as a share of all posting activity, trending up further over the summer and through the pandemic’s second wave in the fall. By March 2021, 11.4% of Canadian job postings on Indeed contained some mention of remote work, nearly triple the pre-pandemic share. 

Much of the initial increase in mentions of remote work reflected a change Indeed made in April 2020 to make it easier to identify job postings as remote. However, over the course of the pandemic, we estimate this change explains less than 30% of the overall increase in the remote share of postings. Shifts in the mix of jobs posted on Indeed also likely don’t explain much of the rise, as the share of remote postings within individual sectors has also surged. 

Remote postings most common in marketing and tech sectors  

Across different areas of the economy, there is a huge range in the frequency with which job postings include remote-related terms.  At the high-end this March, remote work was mentioned in roughly a third of all job descriptions in marketing, media & communications, as well as certain areas of tech.  Mentions were less frequent, but still common, in areas like legal services, human resources, and finance. 

Elsewhere, remote opportunities could be found, but were much less common. Between 10% and 15% of postings in fields like management, customer service, administrative assistance, sales, and community service included remote-related terms, similar to the economy-wide average. Meanwhile, the option to work from home was rarely mentioned in several healthcare-related sectors; manufacturing; loading & stocking; and food services, among others. 

Remote work opportunities available in both large and small cities

Much of the recent discussion surrounding remote work has focused on how it allows white collar workers in big, expensive cities to move to cheaper locales, away from their former offices. Consistent with this idea, in March, 15% of Toronto-area and 14% of Vancouver-area job postings mentioned remote work, higher shares than in most other population centers. 

Nevertheless, for positions where working from home is common, postings in smaller cities are often just as likely to mention remote work as job ads in large metros. In fields like software development, remote opportunities make up an even greater share of postings in smaller markets than in larger ones. Just under a third of software development job ads in Toronto and Vancouver metro areas mention remote work, while in Victoria, Saskatoon, and London, the share is over 45%. Many employers outside the largest population centers are probably offering remote options not only to keep employees out of offices during the pandemic, but also to expand the geographic reach of their candidate searches.

Still, job posting mixes in large cities are generally more conducive to remote work. For instance, software development accounts for nearly 8% of job postings in Toronto and Vancouver, but less than 3% in Victoria, Saskatoon, and London. As a result, remote opportunities are somewhat more plentiful in Canada’s largest cities.

Majority of remote postings are “temporarily remote”

As with many pandemic-related trends, the future of remote work remains cloudy — we don’t know to what extent working from home will persist. However, there are some clues. In particular, Indeed job posting data suggest a large portion of the rise in remote postings won’t last.

Job postings on Indeed come from many sources, including applicant tracking systems, company websites, and ads posted by employers directly on Indeed Canada. Since April 2020, Indeed has asked employers posting directly on the site an optional question: “Can this job be performed remotely, meaning primarily from home?” Possible responses are “yes,” “temporarily due to COVID-19,” or “no.” The answer is added to the job description.

Since the start of the year, in the majority of postings where employers have directly indicated the position can be performed from home, remote status has been described as temporary. In March, 61% of these remote roles were categorized as “temporarily remote due to COVID-19.” This roughly matches a recent Statistics Canada survey, which found that among businesses for which remote work was relevant, 58% reported it was likely or very likely they’d require employees to come back to on-site work after the pandemic. 

Among sectors where job postings frequently mention remote work, the share of postings marked as temporarily remote varies. Most remote tech-related postings are classified as temporarily remote. In marketing, as well as media and communications, it’s nearly an even split. In legal services, accounting, and finance, closer to three-quarters of remote postings are marked as temporary. On the flip side, while a smaller share of sales postings are tagged as remote, among those that are, a relatively lower share are classified as temporary.

Conclusion 

A substantial share of the recent surge in full-time remote work is likely to reverse as the pandemic eventually subsides. However, this doesn’t mean what remains won’t have significant labour market impacts. Even with a fall-back, the rise in remote opportunities has been large enough that it will continue to be important in certain segments of the labour market. Businesses competing for job seekers will still have to weigh the place of remote work in their talent acquisition strategies. Moreover, the pandemic experience with remote work will likely make it easier to work from home, at least on a semi-regular basis. The evolution of these trends will be key to watch as it becomes safe to return to currently empty workplaces. 

Methodology

We identify job postings as open to remote work if the job title or description includes terms like “remote work,” “work from home,” télétravail,” or similar terms, or if the location is explicitly listed as remote. 

Since April 2020, employers posting jobs directly to Indeed have been asked: “Can this job be performed remotely, meaning primarily from home?” We compare the number of posts which answered “yes” or “temporarily due to Covid-19” to calculate the share of remote postings which are temporarily remote.

Regions mentioned in the post refer to Census Metropolitan Areas. For example, a posting located in Mississauga is considered part of Toronto.