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The majority of downtown Toronto workers are ready to go back to the office

Having the ability to wear jogging pants, pajama pants, or no pants at all to work every day for the past year has been swell, but many downtown Toronto office workers are ready for real life to resume.

This, according to the results of a forthcoming Nanos survey commissioned by the Toronto Region Board of Trade (TRBOT.)

Roughly 64 per cent of downtown office workers now "feel safe going to their workplace in the core," according to The Toronto Star, which obtained the results of the survey ahead of its release this week.

Another 21 per cent indicated that they were neutral or uncertain on the matter, and 15 per cent said that they didn't yet feel comfortable returning to the office.

While not a staggering majority, the number of people who indicated that they were ready to go back to work in this most-recent survey is significantly higher than what was identified by TRBOT in September: Only 15 per cent of people said they'd be comfortable heading back to the office at that time, most of them within walking distance of the workplace or living in small condos.

Toronto Region Board of Trade CEO Jan De Silva credits work-from-home woes, in part, for the uptick in willingness to go back to the office IRL.

"It's the fatigue of this non-stop virtual world, of not being as productive as you can be if you can just get into a meeting face to face and work things through," she told The Star in a piece published Tuesday. "You really need to schedule everyone now."

The topics of "digital fatigue" and "work-from-home burnout" have been discussed at length by experts since the pandemic first hit, but have become an even more frequent point of conversation in recent months.

With the one year anniversary of Ontario's first widespread lockdown approaching, it's becoming more and more apparent that people want to get back to meatspace meetings and away from endless Zoom calls.

"The lack of separation between home and work makes stepping away difficult; rarely am I fully out of work, mentally speaking," said one respondent in a recent survey about "the burnout crisis" by Harvard Business Review.

"Being stuck at home creates boredom gaps and general worries about the future... My colleagues began the lockdown being 'performatively online' and have stayed there because, in my view, they lack viable alternatives for mental engagement," the 41-year-old tech director continued.

"This creates a spiral of performance and expectation that is extremely detrimental to our well-being."

The mental health of workers isn't the only thing suffering on account of downtown offices being closed — businesses in the core, especially those which typically cater to office crowds, are in dire straights, and things are expected to get worse before they get any better.

CBRE's Real Estate Market Outlook predicts that downtown Toronto office vacancies will rise to 12.4 per cent by the end of this year, up from 7.2 per cent in 2020 and 2.2 per cent in 2019.

Major Canadian employers like Shopify have already pivoted to a permanent remote work model, while many big banks and tech firms say employees won't return to the office until at least late 2021. Juggernauts like Goldman Sachs, however, have fully rejected the idea of remote working as the "new normal."

Whatever employers decide to do, the new Nanos survey suggests that people in Toronto are growing more and more eager to leave their homes for work — but it's important to note that they aren't keen to risk their lives in the process.

Among the 506 downtown Toronto office workers surveyed by Nanos between Jan. 29 and Feb. 5, 83 per cent of respondents said it was "important for them to feel their workplace was safe from a public health perspective."

The same ratio also stated that it is for them to know what their employer expects when they come back to work, while 80 per cent indicated that they want to feel safe while travelling to the office.

Lead photo by

A Great Capture

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