Webinar Recap

Office Matters
Exploring What Back to the Office Means

October 8, 2020
At Toronto CREW’s Back to the Office webinar on October 8, moderator, Sheila Botting, Principal & President Americas, Professional Services, Consulting & Advisory, Avison Young, led a lively, topical discussion with panelists, Annie Bergeron, Principal & Design Director, Genlser, Kevin Hardy, Vice President & Head of Toronto Office, Oxford Properties Group and Julie Ricketts Daniel, Director Asset Management & Workplace, Bell Canada, on how workplace dynamics are playing out in today’s COVID-19 world.

Working from Home or Living at Work?

Underpinning the webinar discussion were highlights from Gensler’s ongoing research and workplace study, U.S. Work from Home Survey 2020, presented by Annie Bergeron. Key findings include:
  • Greater sense of safety
  • Increased productivity
  • Interruptions and distractions high
  • Decreased collaborations
  • Natural interactions difficult 
  • Workplace culture negatively impacted
70 percent of survey respondents from the early summer expressed their preference to work from the office. Now, preferences are split 50, 50.

Conclusions being drawn from the study are future spaces that can shape-shift based on people, places and technology to create work modes that empower choice, increase connections between people connect and prioritize agility.

Into a New Era

Creating safer spaces has been Oxford Properties approach from the beginning, described Kevin Hardy. Technology investments such as robotic cleaners, sensors for occupancy tracking, replacing pass cards with Bluetooth readers, elevator destination dispatching, and virtual tours have all been well utilized throughout the pandemic. The most beneficial platform are communication applications that have the infrastructure for customer use for their own tracking.

As an essential service, keeping people and teams connect has been Bell Canada’s driving principle from the start, stated Julie Ricketts Daniel. From waiving fees, offering flexible payment options, ensuring safe and usable studios were safe and usable news studios to contributing personal protective equipment to frontline workers are all among the efforts to maintain connectivity for people and businesses.

The panel discussion highlighted that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for future offices. Changing mindsets and lessons learned from the pandemic bring opportunity to emphasize the comfort, productivity, and collaborations above all previous space-use models. 

As seen following the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic, perhaps we’ll experience the “roaring ‘20s” of the office.