2020 Survey

Where does economic activity take place in cities? From Place of Work to Work Trajectory

Work takes place everywhere — at least for some people. Work-related phone conversations occur in cars, reports are written in cafés, and spreadsheets analyzed on the subway. Likewise, certain personal services such as hairdressing and dog-walking occur in multiple locations; and though some workers have always been unattached to specific workplaces (such as transport industry workers, tradespeople and travelling salespeople), the possibilities have multiplied with the advent of mobile communications technologies, particularly for knowledge workers but extending to other types of workers (particularly those working in personals service sectors such as home cleaning and child care). Of course, the Covid 19 crisis has changed the location of work for many people. This research project, which is exploratory in nature, seeks to better understand where the economic activity of workers is actually performed in the city, and how this has changed since the Covid 19 crisis started.

Project details

This research project is run by Professor Richard Shearmur, McGill School of Urban Planning. The project is funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

The survey has received ethics approval, certificate: 383-0218(0520).

Contact details for questions about the survey: Richard Shearmur, Professor, McGill School of Urban Planning. Tel: 514-398-5404 / richard.shearmur@mcgill.ca

Contact details for McGill’s ethics board for ethics concerns : Lynda.McNeil, Lynda.mcneil@mcgill.ca

The survey

The purpose of this survey is to better understand where work activities (such as reading, telephone calls, e-mail, analysis, machine operation, service, supervision, inter-personal contact, meetings…) actually take place.

The results will help in further understanding the geography of economic activity, and in doing so will contribute to better designed towns and cities which cater for to the needs of workers. It will also help us better understand the impact of the Covid19 pandemic on work locations.

The survey asks what places you have performed your work tasks during your most recent full week of work (including usual rest days), and where you performed your work tasks before the Covid19 pandemic, in February 2020. It will take about 20 minutes. Participation is voluntary; you don’t have to answer any question you don’t want and you can withdraw your data at anytime by contacting BIP. 

Confidentiality of respondents

The survey is administered by BIP Recherche, a specialised survey firm. BIP phone or on-line responses will be compiled and stocked on BIP’s servers, and any identifying information collected will be kept confidential by BIP.  BIP will request your e-mail address in case you wish to receive a summary report of the survey’s findings. BIP will keep this information, as well as the number at which they reached you, on record. This information will be destroyed at the request of McGill once the survey has been completed and the summary reports distributed.

The researchers will only receive anonymized information. No information allowing respondents’ identity to be discovered will be communicated to the researchers.


Many thanks for participating in the survey. Your assistance is much appreciate and will provide valuable information that will help in better planning and designing our cities.

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