Most Canadians afraid to return to workplace, yet trust employers

Most Canadians afraid to return to workplace

A new KPMG Workforce Safeguarding App helps companies reopen their physical workplace safely during the pandemic


​More than half (54 per cent) of Canadians are afraid to return to the workplace given just how contagious the COVID-19 virus is, and six in 10 will refuse to go back if they feel it's not safe enough, finds a new poll by KPMG in Canada. Still, 82 per cent trust their employer to take and maintain all the necessary health and safety precautions.

"Our poll findings clearly show that Canadians are placing a great deal of trust in their employers to manage their return to the workplace and in keeping them safe," says Doron Melnick, partner and acting lead of KPMG's people and change advisory services practice. "The pandemic is forcing every employer in the country to adopt comprehensive protocols and safety measures, and to look at new ways of staying connected to their employees."

Virtually all Canadians (94 per cent) believe the pandemic is far from over, and 83 per cent say they're worried about catching the virus or transmitting it to their loved ones. But, as long as the number of COVID cases remain relatively low, as many as 72 per cent of Canadians would be okay going back to their physical workplace, although they believe there will be a second wave of infections in the fall or winter that will shut down workplaces all over again.

Key Poll Highlights

  • 94 per cent of Canadians believe COVID-19 is far from over.
  • 83 per cent worry about getting COVID-19 or transmitting it to their loved ones.
  • 54 per cent admit they're afraid of returning to the workplace given how contagious the COVID-19 virus is.
    • Three in five (59 per cent) women say they're fearful of returning, compared to 49 per cent of men.
    • British Columbians and Ontarians are the most fearful of returning, at 60 per cent and 64 per cent, respectively.
  • 72 per cent are OK with going back to the workplace now when the number of COVID-19 cases is relatively low, but they think a second wave this autumn or winter will shut down workplaces all over again.
  • 64 per cent would feel much or somewhat better about heading back into their physical workplace if their employer kept them updated in real-time about the level of health risk at their office and provided resources to foster their health and well-being.
    • In B.C. and Ontario, nearly 7 in 10 employees (69 per cent) would feel much or somewhat better.
  • Six in 10 Canadians (59 per cent) say they will refuse to return to their workplace if they don't feel safe enough.
  • 82 per cent trust their employer to take and maintain all the necessary health and safety precautions.
    • This jumps to 87 per cent in Alberta and Quebec.

Prefer in-person communications

The KPMG poll findings show that most Canadians (76 per cent) are satisfied with their work-from-home environment, and almost six in 10 (59 per cent) say they feel more productive.

However, they do feel their relationships with co-workers are suffering. An equal number (59 per cent) say their relationship with their co-workers is weaker in their current work-from-home environment. Seven in 10 (71 per cent) prefer in-person communication over any other form, including email, and 76 per cent say face-to-face in-person meetings are key to successfully building and maintaining long-term business relationships.

Top concern? Not the elevators

When returning to their physical workplace, more than three-quarters (77 per cent) of Canadians said their top concern was that their colleagues might come to work sick or be asymptomatic.

Nearly six in 10 (57 per cent) were worried about sharing common spaces like meeting or lunch rooms, and 40 per cent were concerned about the air ventilation and circulation. They were least concerned about having to wear a mask in their workplace and waiting for an elevator.

Three in five Canadians would use their employer's smartphone app to help them avoid busy and crowded office areas, with slightly more than a quarter (26 per cent) expressing concern about app geo-tracking privacy.

Safeguarding workplaces with KPMG's new mobile app

The more employers can do to keep their workers safe, the more likely they are to drive both loyalty and productivity.

The poll findings reveal that 84 per cent of Canadians said they'd be more loyal to their employer or willing to give the extra effort when they know their company cares and is focused on keeping them safe. That's in line with Ontario and below 89 per cent in Alberta and 87 per cent in B.C.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents in Ontario (65 per cent) would download an app from their employer that lets them know how busy office areas are so that they can avoid those areas. The national average is 60 per cent.

To help organizations efficiently safeguard workplaces and manage their workforce in the new reality, KPMG recently launched a KPMG Workplace Safeguarding App. The App, which does not geo-track employees, helps employers to instantly connect with their workforce wherever they are, notifying them of urgent news, required actions, office open or closed status, and the level of health risk for that office.

"Canadians are looking for tools they can trust to keep them safe in these unprecedented times," says Yvon Audette, KPMG's chief operating officer, management consulting services. "Our app helps make managing who returns to the workplace, when, and where much smoother. Because we designed it to be easy to use, employers will find that our app will help drive employee trust, engagement, and loyalty."

The App is to be used as a front-end component of broader workplace operational health and safety measures aligned to best practices and provincial standards within the COVID-19 context.

While the app can be customized, some of its key features include:

  • My Notification Centre – stay informed from any location on important news, updates, or required actions
  • My Offices – provides employees with office open/closed status and health risk for that office
  • My Request Centre – an intelligent travel request module that empowers employees to make informed decisions when scheduling a visit to their office location or visiting client sites locally and abroad
  • My Personal Risk Assessment – stay up to date with public health and safety guidelines for your region and organization
  • My Daily Check-in – a pulse-check of your teams with gamification elements to encourage participation
  • My Wellness Resources – connect your workforce with resources to promote wellness
  • My Dashboard – a comprehensive view of key performance indicators (KPIs) to provide management with real-time transparency on employee groups, facility readiness, and community risk levels.
  • Office Tracker – an easy-to-use menu for office managers to update the status of their local office and building, using configurable features such as personal protective equipment inventory and office cleanings.

KPMG used Methodify, an online research automation platform, to survey 1,010 Canadians between July 22 and 24.


KPMG LLP, an Audit, Tax and Advisory firm ( is a limited liability partnership, established under the laws of Ontario, and the Canadian member firm of KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"). KPMG has more than 7,000 professionals/employees in over 40 locations across Canada serving private- and public-sector clients. KPMG is consistently recognized as an employer of choice and one of the best places to work in the country.

The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International, a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.

For more information or to request tables, please contact:

Caroline Van Hasselt
National Communications & Media Relations
KPMG in Canada
(416) 777-3288

© 2022 KPMG LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership and a member firm of the KPMG global organization of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved.

For more detail about the structure of the KPMG global organization please visit

Connect with us

Stay up to date with what matters to you

Gain access to personalized content based on your interests by signing up today

Sign up today