When the city’s office workers packed up their desks in March 2020, none of them could have imagined how long they’d be working from home. At the time, it seemed like a temporary fix with some baked-in perks: a couple of weeks enjoying the comfort of sweatpants, mid-day dog walks and a 40-second commute. Zoom’s market valuation exploded, and the world kept running.
Then, of course, those weeks turned into months, the virus spawned “variants of concern,” and the future of work began to seem more and more uncertain. Two years in, the shape of the post-pandemic workplace is finally starting to emerge, and it looks…pretty good. For most people with a desk job, the future is likely to involve a combination of a few days in the office and a few days at home. This is partly based on Covid’s unrelenting changeability, and the inability of most office buildings to accommodate social distancing with a full complement on site. But it’s also based on lessons that employees and employers have learned about what they want out of work and life and the elusive balance between the two.
In a recent Cisco Canada survey, 71 per cent of employees said that remote work has had a positive impact on their work-life balance, and 77 per cent said that flexibility in location and hours will determine whether they stay at a job. An Angus Reid poll published last summer reported that 65 per cent of Ontarians would like a hybrid model—meaning they could work from home (or from a beach in the Bahamas) one week and from their office the next.
In an effort to retain their workforce and keep morale high, many employers are racing to make flexibility a priority. Companies are experimenting with four-day work weeks. They’re handing out swag-laden onboarding packages for remote hires, including laptops and other tech, branded hoodies and snacks. They’re building Edenic rooftop patios and revamping shared spaces, enticing staff to use the office like a clubhouse—because who needs dedicated desks when the real work can happen anywhere, anytime? In the pages ahead, we’ve profiled some of Toronto’s most innovative companies and sketched out how they’re changing the workplace for the better. Chances are, the office you return to will look nothing like the one you left behind.
This feature appears in the April 2022 issue of Toronto Life magazine. To subscribe for just $24.99 a year, click here.