return to work

Toronto is starting to return to the office as restrictions in Ontario loosen up

Swaths of the downtown core once known for being bustling on any given weekday have been eerily quiet since 2020, when the work-from-home model became the norm and many workers adapted to performing their roles completely remotely as office space vacancies skyrocketed.

Though the city made a push for workers to return to the office, the Omicron variant put these plans on hold for many despite the fact that companies were already making plans for getting their staff back into the workplace.

As of late 2021, nearly 80 per cent of those in desk jobs in Toronto were still working fully from home — as the province advised they should be doing — and there were worries that the city's financial district in particular would never recover.

But, more and more office space has gradually been leased out, and the glut of space available for sublet on the market has been decreasing, with many businesses opting for some type of hybrid situation that permits a mix of both office and remote work as people are eager to get out of the house day-to-day again.

Things are indeed beginning to look more normal in these areas as pandemic restrictions provincewide are loosened, with activity up and millions of square feet of office space back in use by big players like Scotiabank, RBC, Apple, BMO and Sun Life.

And, more brands are slated to head back to the core this month — with today marking the end of vaccine passports and all indoor capacity limits in Ontario — from ad agencies to tech companies to banks to the City of Toronto, the latter of which has asked workers to be fully back in-office on or before March 21.

This is extremely welcome news for the companies leasing out this sort of space, as well as for employees who have found working from home depressing and employers who have found it harmful to productivity, communication and collaboration.

But while many are looking forward to a hybrid model that still includes some remote time, others remain wary.

Though the PATH, whose businesses were among the hardest-hit by the pandemic, is finally also looking alive again, the hybrid work trend means that things may never be quite like the before times, or at least not for a while.

Long-running PATH storefronts who rely almost solely on foot traffic have continued to see tragically lower sales than pre-COVID, even with a portion of workers returning.

Lead photo by

Jason Cook

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