office toronto

Toronto offices are finally looking more normal as people get back to work

The pandemic has left Toronto's usually bustling Financial District a complete ghost town for the majority of the last 20 months, with a glut of available office space flooding onto the market and countless nearby businesses forced to shutter permanently amid record low foot traffic.

Though a hybrid work model with at least some time from home is the inevitable future for many industries — backyard offices are the latest trend, while homes with potential office space are more valuable than ever — new data shows that people are indeed slowly returning to work hubs.

According to recent figures from commercial real estate firm CBRE, buildings in downtown Toronto were an entire 20 per cent busier in November than in August, with 2.5 million square feet of space leased out to employers in the second half of 2021 — the exact amount that was suddenly and concerningly freed up in 2020.

In fact, there has been more leasing activity in these spaces over the last five months than during the whole 15 months from April 2020 to June 2021, and companies are now jumping into new office spaces faster than even pre-COVID.

CBRE is calling this rebound "a clear signal that businesses are returning to the office and making investments to occupy space long term," and note the confidence that many big players have shown, with brands like Scotiabank, RBC, Sun Life and Apple sharing clear plans for return-to-work.

The demand for larger spaces is also going up, with many companies looking for more than 100,000 square feet to bring their staff back into.

It helps that Toronto has recently been ranked the top locale for high-tech job growth, one of the smartest cities in the world and a hub for tech growth, with companies like GoogleAmazonNetflixReddit, TikTokDoorDashUberPinterestWayfair and setting up shop here.

But still, it's been a hard road to get back to something resembling a normal work environment, even before all of the rigorous health and safety guidelines that now come into play.

A whopping 77 per cent of residents who worked out of an office in the Financial District during the before times have still yet to return, though this spike in new commercial leases means their employers are preparing for it.

Also, things are looking better across Toronto more widely, like midtown, where offices are more closely resembling their 2019 selves.

While the City of Toronto announced a plan over the summer to get workers back to the office, with COVID case counts rising once more and the new threat of Omicron, the provincial government has now advised companies to continue to let their staff work from home.

Lead photo by

Jack Landau

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