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Insights from our telework research

Updated: May 30, 2023

There is an old chestnut in real estate, presumably from a lovely chestnut tree in a large backyard near a good school: it’s all about ‘location, location, location’. To which we would add ‘location…of your work.’

As we all know all too well, telework, also known as work-from-home, remote work, hybrid work, took root during the many waves of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, Statistics Canada reported that 32 percent of Canadians were working from home and a full 80 percent were interested in continuing this practice post-pandemic.

And that post-pandemic time is upon us – the World Health Organization has declared an end to the COVID-19 global health emergency. Many employees have for their part declared that they want to keep working from home. Many employers are trying to accommodate while figuring out what to do with existing commercial space.

Why this research?

From office space to residential homes, the real estate market across Alberta has been impacted by working from home – and will continue to be impacted due to ongoing telework practices. What does this mean for the environment? People should be driving less so on the surface it seems greener.

What does it mean for the economy? What does it mean for the real estate industry?

The shift to telework is a relatively new phenomenon and it is still uncertain to what degree it will become ‘the norm’. We need to stay on top of the trends happening in Alberta to inform future planning or sales strategies in real estate. What are buyers and renters looking for now? And, importantly, where are they looking?

That’s why the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) and RFS Consulting set out to research the impacts of telework on the Alberta real estate industry. We were awarded funding from the Alberta Real Estate Foundation for the Telework Impacts on the Real Estate Industry in Alberta project.

Our team investigated changes taking place in Albertan communities as more people now work from home, with a focus on commercial & residential real estate market trends and related implications to suburban areas and downtown cores.

The work-life balance at home

Whether you are camp ‘telework’ or camp ‘get back to the office’, what seems clear is that telework is here to stay in some hybrid form. Telework is a hot topic as employers across Alberta struggle to strike the right balance between offering staff flexibility while fostering in-person relationship building.

Veteran employees wonder if they need to return to the office when many jobs can be performed just as well from home. But younger staff may worry about missing out on networking and in-office mentoring opportunities.

Working from home has led to cost savings on commuting, parking, and other work-related expenses. This has allowed some individuals to save more money and reduce their overall living expenses. But working from home can lead to increased expenses related to home offices, such as equipment, furniture, and higher utility bills. (And we all know how costly printer cartridges can be!)

Of course, where people work has a direct – and deep – impact on the real estate industry. It changes what companies and residents are looking for in homes and offices. It changes the customer-base of businesses in the downtown core, and the amenities needed in suburban and urban communities. For real estate professionals, there are both challenges and opportunities.

The evolution of the real estate industry in the wake of the pandemic is closely tied to the impacts of telework. Our project focused on research and communication on a wide variety of emerging topics related to remote work.

Keeping in the know

Check out our blog series Home is Where the Work Is? based on our research on telework in Alberta. Through these blog posts, we will cover topics such as:

  • Understanding how remote work is changing the real estate industry

  • How telework led people to move from the downtown core to suburban and rural areas

  • Green tips for working-from-home

  • How telework has changed how we design and use spaces

Find all our resources – and all our blog posts in this series – at Presented by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and RFS Consulting, and funded by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.


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