How are Canadian businesses adapting to the Pandemic?

Using Statistic Canada's Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC), we analyzed business trends throughout the pandemic, such as remote work, online sales, and employment and skills demands
How are Canadian businesses adapting to the Pandemic?
Creig Lamb
Alumni, Senior Policy Analyst

About the Reports

In the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, from February to May, 3 million jobs were lost in Canada. Close to 2 million were full-time jobs and recovery from this initial shock has been slow and uneven

To maintain operations, whether full or partial, businesses across the country have had to make a variety of strategic investments, including those related to remote work and online sale. These investments, while mostly geared towards navigating the immediate challenges of the pandemic, may have long-term implications for how businesses operate and the skills employers will need.

In partnership with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), and Palette Inc., the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship (BII+E) is analyzing business trends throughout the course of the pandemic using Statistics Canada’s Canadian Survey on Business Conditions (CSBC), and focussing on three key areas: remote work, online sales, and employment and skills demands.

For more information, contact Creig Lamb,


Remote Work

Key findings:

  • Fewer Canadian businesses said remote work is possible for employees in 2021 (so far) than in 2020.
  • For Canadian businesses that were able have employees work remotely, more opted for partial remote work vs. shifting to entirely remote work.
  • Larger firms appear to have a greater ability for employees to work from home.
  • Businesses in professional services, scientific services, technical services, insurance, information industries, and cultural industries are more likely to embrace almost or entirely remote work.
  • Majority of retail, accommodation and food services—industries hardest hit by provincial shutdowns— report that remote work is not possible over the next three months.
  • More businesses say they will require workers to come back to work on site (29%) than businesses planning to continue remote work options (17%).
  • Less than 10% of businesses say they are likely to reduce their physical space after the pandemic. 
  • More than 10% of businesses in informational and cultural industries plan to hire employees living outside their immediate vicinity over the next year.

Remote Work in Canada

Online Sales

Key findings:

  • Despite the pandemic, the number of Canadian businesses making majority (+60%) of their sales online only rose 3% in 2020.
  • Nearly one third of businesses in finance and insurance adopted or plan to adopt an online sales platform due to COVID-19.
  • Overall, finance and insurance businesses led the shift towards online sales, and 31% say they are likely to continue increasing online sales post-pandemic.
  • The number of Canadian retailers making most of their sales online only increased slightly from 2019 to 2020, despite the fact that 40% of Canadian retailers adopted or plan to adopt an online sales platform due to COVID-19.
  • A larger proportion of wholesale trade businesses plan to increase their online sales capacity than any other industry.
  • Small businesses (1-4 employees) were more likely to earn the majority of sales online, but the larger the business, the more likely companies were to adopt or plan to adopt an online sales platform.

Online Sales in Canada

A Changing Skills Landscape

Key findings:

  • More Canadian businesses anticipate decreasing, rather than increase, their number of employees over the next three months.
  • Industries particularly affected by public health restrictions, like accommodation and food services, are much more likely to anticipate reducing their workforce over the next three months.
  • 1 in 5 Canadian businesses report that labour shortages will be an obstacle over the next three months.
  • As businesses make critical investments into the future, including adopting new technology, some plan to hire staff with skills or knowledge that current employees lack.
  • For the most part, plans to hire staff with new skills or knowledge, whether technical, managerial, or other skills, increases with firm size.
  • A larger proportion of businesses are showing a stronger inclination towards upskilling the existing workforce rather than looking elsewhere for new talent.

A Changing Skills Landscape


This work was made possible by our partnerships.