COVID-19 changed office work. Here’s what the ‘next normal’ looks like as people return

Deloitte Canada could have moved into its newly opened Vancouver office sooner, had it not been for the pandemic.

But the delay has given the company some time to consider how that space can be used.

“We’ve been able to really think about this ‘next normal,’” said Jayara Daras, corporate culture and employee leader, which at Deloitte includes support for hybrid working arrangements.

Currently, nearly a fifth of Deloitte’s regional workforce of 1,500 people work on the premises on a normal working day.

Local Deloitte Canada employees moved to the Deloitte Summit Tower in Vancouver in June, a process that the company’s culture and staff leader says has been delayed by the pandemic. But the delay has given the company time to think about how it will use the space there. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“We are hitting about 275,300 people,” he added [on a given day]Drers said, noting that fewer people are choosing to come on Mondays and Fridays.

She expects that number to rise this fall, but she also doesn’t expect Deloitte to ask for a comeback.

The pandemic has upended long-established office routines, prompting organizations to rethink how work is done and adopt more flexible arrangements.

More people are encouraged to physically return to work this fall, but it does not appear that the world of work will return to its pre-pandemic state.

Watch | Asking for flexibility, even back in the office:

Workers want flexibility in plans to return to the office

As pandemic restrictions ease across Canada, companies are preparing to welcome employees back into the office. But many are resisting and asking for flexible working arrangements, while others are looking to go to the office again.

“It’s clear that working from home will stay here,” said Nicholas Bloom, a professor of economics at Stanford University who has been studying the impact of expanding the adoption of more flexible work, via email.

Temporary start to 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 footprint.

Amy Fong, vice president of property management services strategy at Colliers Canada, says many companies are starting to see people return to the office on a voluntary basis during the spring — and her organization hears that some companies are now doing so in a mandatory office presence. (Provided by Amy Fong)

Amy Fong, vice president of property management services strategy at Colliers Canada, said the company has been conducting regular surveys among tenants throughout the pandemic.

This year, between spring and fall, Fong said Colliers saw a “four percent increase in the number of companies that said they were transitioning to full-time employment” in the office — where employees go five days a week — with that number moving from 33 to 37 percent.

This may seem like a temporary gain, but Vuong said it could be an indicator of a larger trend.

“A lot of companies have submitted files [return-to-office] The policies are on a voluntary basis this spring,” Fung said.

“We hear that companies may be looking at removing this voluntary option by the fall.”

Cities and passengers

In Toronto, a lot of office desks remain unused for nearly 30 months in the COVID-19 era.

The Strategic Regional Research Alliance (SRRA), an independent research group, monitors the level of office occupancy in Canada’s most populous city.

The Strategic Regional Research Alliance estimates that the percentage of people who come to the office in Toronto, as of last month, is less than 30 percent of its pre-COVID equivalent. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The percentage of people heading to these spaces – as of its most recent snapshot from mid-August – is still Less than 30% of its pre-pandemic equivalent.

Iain Dobson, co-founder of SRRA, expects employers will want to see more people in the office this fall, if at all possible.

“We’ve had a lot of false starts,” Dobson told CBC News in a phone interview.

The Toronto Transit Commission expects A jump of 10 to 15 percent in the number of passengers This fall, after students return to school and “more people return to work in the office.”

File photo showing the exterior of the Côte-Vertu subway station in Montreal. Société de Transport de Montréal expects to see more people taking transportation this fall as students return to school and more people return to the office. (CBC/Radio Canada)

This reflects what Société de Transportation de Montreal expects.

“We are currently at 65 percent of the pre-pandemic level and we expect to reach 70 to 80 percent this fall, mainly due to the return of workers and students,” STM spokeswoman Emily Regis said in an email.

Many employees will be in the office “more often” than now

Some of Canada’s leading employers are pushing to bring more people back to the site this fall — although as they rely on new work arrangements, those employees may not be going to the office every day.

Royal Bank of Canada, which has more than 60,000 employees in Canada, seeks to see leaders and employees in the office “more often” – with President and CEO Dave McKay to prove that people thrive working together.

Royal Bank of Canada has more than 60,000 employees in Canada. The company’s president and CEO noted that the organization wants to see its teams spend “more time” in the office. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

“We know that not all roles or teams are the same, and many types of work can be done productively at home or off-site.” Wrote in a recent LinkedIn post.

“At the same time, there’s an energy and spontaneity that comes from personal contact. I don’t think technology can reproduce.”

Christopher Gray, the company’s vice president of organizational culture and design, said in an email statement.

According to Christopher Gray, the company’s vice president of organizational culture and design, Canadian Tire employees who work in hybrid roles don’t have a set number of days they must spend in the office. (Chris Watty/Reuters)

However, Canadian Tire has invested in “new technology, modern amenities and collaboration spaces” and believes its employees will “continue to gather more personally,” he said.

federal government, which employs more than 300,000 government employeesIt also intends to see more people coming forward within its facilities — and the Canadian Treasury Board Secretariat says that process has been underway, for various departments, since spring.

In an email, the council said “the Government of Canada has been testing new hybrid models with a view to full implementation in the fall” as public health considerations permit.

Unions representing public officials They expressed their concerns about this plan.

There is no real justification

Greg Phillips, president of the Canadian Association of Professional Employees, said the government had not explained why more time in the office was needed – and had not indicated there was a problem with the work that public servants were doing. both from home.

“There is no real justification being given,” said Phillips, whose union represents 23,000 members including government economists, translators and interpreters.

Bloom from Stanford University was part of a larger effort to examine the experiences of people working from home during the pandemic.

The research points to a future in which workers want to maintain the flexibility they have been accustomed to over the past two and a half years.

February 2022 survey It has more than 20,000 participants around the world15 percent of these respondents indicated that they would quit their jobs if they were forced to return to work five days a week.

A higher proportion of Canadians – about 22 percent – felt this way.

Canada, like the United States, has a very developed economy with a large number of professional jobs that can [be] remote, highly educated workforce and many people live long distances from work,” Bloom said.