Should Canadians be planning for life working from anywhere?

Despite low percentage of employees working cross-border, study hints at importance of considering payroll implications

Should Canadians be planning for life working from anywhere?

It would have been simple to think that thousands of Canadians had ditched their flannel pajamas in favor of beachwear after scrolling through Instagram, Facebook, or Tik Tok in the last two years. But looks can be misleading, as a new survey by the National Payroll Institute illustrates.

According to the study, the majority of Canadians (90%) continued to work from their home province during the pandemic. And the people that relocated tended not to go too far from home, with three quarters (73%) remaining in Canada and one quarter (26%) in the United States.

"Although working from anywhere isn't prevalent yet, Canadian employers would be wise to get ahead of the curve by preparing policies and processes to offer the increasing flexibility that workers are seeking out," Peter Tzanetakis, President, National Payroll Institute said in a statement.

"In February 2020, working from home and hybrid models were not top of mind. Today, flexibility is an expectation and key differentiator for businesses competing for talent in a limited pool. It's not a huge leap to think that the ability to work not just from home but from anywhere will be next – but doing so comes with significant payroll complications for both employers and employees," he added.

Almost one-quarter of respondents said they would consider working from abroad while keeping their current job. Two fifths (39%) said they would keep their current employment, but live in a different region or country if their company allowed it.

The ability to explore another portion of the country or world (46%) was the most prevalent reason for relocating to another jurisdiction (province or country), followed by saving money (38 %), improving work-life balance (29%), investing in property in a different market (22%), and living closer to family and friendsc(21% ).

Seventy-seven per cent of respondents said they would not accept a pay cut in exchange for geographic flexibility. Those few who are willing to give up a portion of their wage claim that they are not willing to give up much. Only 4% of respondents would tolerate a reduction of 20% or more.

Moving outside of Canada is much more difficult, partly because each country has its own set of regulations.

Those are just a few examples of the complications of working from anyplace, which over half of respondents (48%) said they were completely unaware of. Another 34% said they were only "basically aware" of the ramifications and that they would need more information from their boss.

"If working from anywhere is the next step, it is vital for businesses to tap into the expertise of their payroll professionals to help them and their employees safely navigate these complex challenges," said Tzanetakis.