Many chief executives in Canada would like to see employees back in the office five days a week, but appear to be realizing that those days might be over for good. Only 55% of Canadian business leaders think staffers will return to the office full time within the next three years, according to the latest CEO Outlook report from KPMG LLP. That’s a big drop from 2022, when 75% of CEOs expected employees to be back at their desks. Executives globally are more optimistic about a full return, with 64% still expecting one.

Yet, Canadian CEOs remain eager to get people back, and to do so, 77% say they’ll hand out pay raises, promotions and plum assignments to employees who make an effort to show up at their desks more often. But even that percentage is muted when compared to CEOs around the world, of which 88% say they would offer such incentives to ensure more in-office days.

The research lines up with other studies that have shown Canadians spend more of their workweeks at home than employees in other countries. On average, Canadian staffers work from home 1.7 days a week, while workers in the United Kingdom do so 1.5 days and those in the United States stay home 1.4 days a week, according to recent research by a German think tank.

A slower return-to-office isn’t the only workplace issue Canadian executives are grappling with these days. Labour shortages, especially among skilled workers, continue to weigh heavily on leaders. Recession fears had many CEOs signing off on layoffs last year, but now 88% say they’re expecting to hire more people over the next three years. But finding those staffers is proving to be a challenge, and more than three-quarters of executives say a lack of qualified labour poses a threat to business.

Increased immigration hasn’t been the solution many have hoped for, either. More than eight in 10 leaders of small and mid-size businesses say they still can’t find the skilled workers they need, the KPMG survey said. Meanwhile, 72% are focusing their recruiting efforts outside the country in an effort to fill open positions.

Economic factors appear to be working against their efforts, however. Almost three-quarters of CEOs say the high cost of living in Canada, exacerbated by a housing crunch, is making it harder for them to woo and keep talent, including foreign workers.

Leaders are eyeing the impacts of high interest rates and living costs in their growth outlooks, and 75% believe financial pressures will eat into their company’s prosperity in the coming years. They’re also watching geopolitical developments with concern, KPMG said. But it’s technology that is proving most worrisome to CEOs, and even causing them to lose sleep, KPMG said. They fear technological advancements will transform their industry and market before they can adapt.

Still, executives remain largely optimistic about the economy and their companies’ growth prospects, and 80% say they feel good about growing their business over the next three years, while 89% remain confident in the economy.

“CEOs are tackling demanding, evolving and complex challenges, yet remain resilient and confident in their outlook,” Elio Luongo, chief executive and senior partner at KPMG in Canada, said in a release. “They are reassessing their strategic priorities and redoubling their efforts on talent management and technology, while weighing the macroeconomic and geopolitical impacts on their organizations and people.”

Source: Financial Post