Deloitte Canada would have moved into the newly opened Vancouver office sooner if not for the pandemic.
However, the delay gave the company some time to consider how the space should be used.
“We were able to really think about this ‘next normal,'” said Jayara Darras, head of corporate culture and people, which includes supporting hybrid work arrangements at Deloitte.
Currently, about a fifth of Deloitte’s 1,500-employee regional staff is in the building on a typical workday.
“We reach about 275,300 people [on a given day]” Darras said, noting that fewer people chose to come on Mondays and Fridays.
He predicts that number will rise this fall, but also doesn’t expect Deloitte to order a return.
The pandemic has upended long-established office routines and forced organizations to rethink how work can be done and adopt more flexible arrangements.
More people are being encouraged to physically return to work this fall, but the world of work doesn’t appear to be returning to its pre-pandemic state.
“Working from home is definitely here,” said Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University who has studied the impact of the growing adoption of more flexible work.
Early start of climb?
Colliers Canada manages more than 60 million square feet of commercial real estate across the country – with office space accounting for more than half of that space.
Amy Vuong, vice-president of property management services strategy for Colliers Canada, said the firm conducted regular surveys of its tenants throughout the pandemic.
This year, between spring and fall, Vuong said Colliers saw “a four percent increase in the number of companies that said they were going full-time” in the office — with employees leaving for five days a week — with it. the number moves from 33 to 37 percent.
That may seem like a preliminary gain, but Vuong said it may indicate a larger trend.
“A lot of companies have launched theirs [return-to-office] policy on a voluntary basis this spring,” said Vuong.
“We have heard that companies are potentially considering removing this voluntary option as we go into the fall.”
Cities and commuters
In Toronto, many office desks are still unused nearly 30 months into the COVID-19 era.
The Strategic Regional Research Alliance (SRRA), an independent research group, tracks office occupancy rates in Canada’s most populous city.
He estimates that the share of people heading to these spaces — according to the most recent snapshot from mid-August — is still less than 30 percent of its pre-pandemic equivalent.
SRRA co-founder Iain Dobson expects employers will want to see more people in the office this autumn if that can be achieved.
“We had so many false starts,” Dobson told CBC News in a phone interview.
The Toronto Transit Commission expects ridership to increase by 10 to 15 percent this fall after students return to school and “more people return to office work.”
This reflects what the Société de transport de Montreal expects.
“We are currently at 65 percent of pre-pandemic levels and expect to reach 70 to 80 percent this fall, mainly due to the return of workers and students,” STM spokeswoman Amélie Régis said in an email.
Many employees will be in the office “more often” than now
Some of Canada’s major large employers are pushing for more people to return to work this fall — even if, depending on their new working conditions, those employees may not be in the office every day.
Royal Bank of Canada, which has more than 60,000 employees based in Canada, is trying to see leaders and employees in the office “more often” — with president and CEO Dave McKay saying people thrive on collaboration.
“We know that not all roles or teams are created equal, and many types of work can be done productively at home or off-site,” McKay wrote in a recent LinkedIn post.
“At the same time, there’s an energy and spontaneity that comes from a personal connection that I don’t believe technology can replicate.”
At Canadian Tire, corporate employees working in hybrid roles “have no mandated ‘work days’ or set number of days that our employees are expected to be on site,” said Christopher Gray, the company’s vice president of culture and organizational design. in an email statement.
Still, Canadian Tire has invested in “new technology, modern equipment and co-working spaces” and believes its employees “will continue to meet in person more often,” he said.
The federal government, which employs more than 300,000 civil servants, also intends to see more people step into its facilities — and Canada’s Treasury Secretariat says the process has been underway for various departments since the spring.
In an email, the board said the “Government of Canada is testing new hybrid models with an eye toward full implementation in the fall” as public health considerations allow.
Unions representing civil servants have raised concerns about the plan.
“No real justification”
Greg Phillips, president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, said the government hasn’t made a clear enough case for why more time in the office is needed — and hasn’t suggested there’s a problem with the work being done by civil servants. and from home.
“We’re not putting forward any real justification,” said Phillips, whose union represents 23,000 members including government economists, translators and interpreters.
Stanford University’s Bloom was part of a large effort to examine people’s experiences of working from home during the pandemic.
And research points to a future where workers want to keep the flexibility they’ve grown accustomed to over the past two and a half years.
A February 2022 survey of more than 20,000 participants from around the world found that 15 percent of those respondents would quit their jobs if they were forced back to work five days a week.
An even higher share of Canadians — nearly 22 percent — felt that way.
“Canada, like the US, has a highly developed economy with a high number of skilled jobs that can [be] done remotely, a highly educated workforce, and many people who commute long hours,” Bloom said.
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