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Working through COVID-19: Return to Work Survey

Only 8 per cent of organizations are fully prepared to re-open

Ottawa, ON. MAY 19, 2020 – As provinces move to ease physical distancing restrictions, Canadian organizations must consider a return of their employees to physical workplaces. However, with COVID-19 still active, how prepared are employers for the risks? How will new measures impact working arrangements in the long term?

The Conference Board of Canada asked Canadian organizations how they’re planning to bring employees back to physical workplaces, and what measures they are putting in place. Results of the survey, released today, are available here: Working Through Covid-19 – Return to Work Survey.

“For employees returning to workplaces, safety will be paramount. The virus will likely find loopholes in safety measures we put in place,” says Allison Cowan, Director Human Capital at The Conference Board of Canada. “Employers will need to continually adapt, and this could include bringing employees back and then having to close workplaces again.”


  • Only 8 per cent of organizations are fully prepared to re-open workplaces.
  • Most organizations will ask employees at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 to remain home.
  • With schools and family support services closed, many organizations have indicated that employees with caregiving responsibilities would also be exempt from returning to the workplace.
  • A phased approach is the top choice for employers who are bringing employees back to the workplace. Other top measures that are being implemented are: restricting the number of people on site and controlling on-site movement.
  • Many organizations surveyed indicated a shift to remote work post-pandemic. Employers are telling us it’s too early to make decisions about what will be in place long-term. This crisis has presented an opportunity to re-think traditional work.

Survey responses were collected on Monday, May 11, 2020, and we received responses from 294 organizations. These findings are part of The Conference Board of Canada’s Working Through COVID-19 series. Themes explored so far are:

Stay tuned for updates as this situation evolves.


About The Conference Board of Canada

The Conference Board of Canada is Canada’s foremost independent, non-partisan, and evidenced-based applied research organization.  We equip leaders and decision-makers with the economic reports, custom research, data, networks and events they need to solve our country’s most pressing challenges. Our focus areas include Canadian Economics, Energy & Environment, Innovation & Technology, Immigration and more. We stand at the intersection of research and policy, where insights meet impact.

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