toronto ready plan

Toronto announces plan to bring downtown workers back to the office

Sick of being forced to work from home 100 per cent of the time? You're not alone: Some 64 per cent of Toronto office employees indicated in a Nanos survey six months ago that they were already ready to ditch their sweatpants for business-casual attire again, at least a few days a week.

Now, roughly 16 months into the pandemic era, people are further feeling the impacts of WFH isolation, physical stagnation, and frustration over trying to conduct business while construction crews scream outside their condos.

A more-recent KPMG study found that nearly 80 per cent of Canadian office workers are now in favour of their employers implementing a "hybrid model" where they can attend a physical workplace at least part time.

The City of Toronto knows it, as do many downtown businesses that normally rely on office crowds for sales — but it's not like the world can just snap back to normal as soon as we enter Step 3. We need to (and do!) have a plan.

Introducing "We're Ready Toronto," a newly-launched campaign meant to "ensure Toronto's employers and businesses are prepared to fully re-open and host their workforce, customers and other visitors in-person."

"We're doing everything we can to support businesses when it is safe to fully re-open," announced Mayor John Tory on Wednesday.

"Today, we launched #WeAreReadyToronto to help businesses bounce back and transition back to work confidently and safely when we get the green light."

Speaheaded by the Toronto Region Board of Trade, the campaign is being staged with support from the city and business partners including Metrolinx, the TTC, the Financial District BIA, all five major banks and a whole host of commercial real estate companies.

The goal is regain at least some of downtown Toronto's 550,000-person strong daytime workforce and $8 billion visitor economy as soon as health officials say it's safe to do so.

"Informed by nearly a year of research, analysis and inputs from hundreds of business leaders, We're Ready Toronto includes reopening playbooks with leading practices proven to mitigate the risks of COVID-19 transmission," said the TRBOT in a release announcing the campaign Wednesday.

"Businesses can search through these playbooks to find mitigations suited to their size and sector."

We're Ready Toronto will provide businesses with district-specific guides for managing elevator capacity, staggering workflows and improving HVAC systems and air quality, among other things, and "will also be engaged in broader efforts to facilitate a return of people to Toronto" such as promoting local restaurants.

Through the campaign, TRBOT is also connecting small and medium-sized businesses with free COVID-19 screening kits and "other resources to minimize the risk of any future outbreak and support a strong, safe and sustainable re-opening."

Downtown Toronto (the Financial District) is the first "pilot zone" for the project, with activations also slated for the Pearson Employment Area and Scarborough Centre.

"We have not been idle during this pandemic. While businesses have patiently waited to reopen — many of them small and Main Street, the most impacted by restrictions — we've been working to ensure that when we got the green light from public health to reopen, we were ready to do so," says TRBOT president Jan De Silva.

"As a united business community, we have one goal — protect the vibrancy, culture and economic future of our city by safely and sustainably welcoming back the people who love to work, eat and shop here. We're ready to see them again."

Lead photo by

Joseph Luong

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