Downtown Winnipeg seeing about 50% workforce back in offices: Survey

Downtown Winnipeg seeing about half of workforce back in offices: survey
Preliminary data from a Probe Omnibus survey that is about halfway complete shows about 50 per cent of office workers are back in some capacity downtown. Global's Amber McGuckin has the story.

Many people across Manitoba are still working out of their homes as we mark six months since the first case of COVID-19 was announced in Manitoba.

Preliminary data from a Probe Omnibus survey that is about halfway complete shows that about 50 per cent of office workers are back in some capacity downtown.

Read more: Winnipeg woman starts office job from home — 12 days after COVID-19 reaches province

“Early indicators for this fall show that about 20 per cent of downtown workers are back in the office full-time and another 30 per cent are splitting their time between home and downtown office,” said Kate Fenske from the Downtown Winnipeg BIZ.

“This is the time in September when we really see a pick me up and everyone in their offices and back into the full swing. We are getting there — definitely traffic has increased — but we aren’t (seeing) normal numbers of what we would have been in a normal year yet.”

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Fenske says even though over 90 per cent of downtown businesses have reopened at least partially, many are still struggling.

“It doesn’t mean the challenges aren’t over yet. It really is important for I think all Winnipeggers and those downtown workers to be able to support your favourite downtown restaurant or store so we can all make it through this time.”

Staying productive while studying or working from home
Staying productive while studying or working from home

Many office buildings downtown haven’t welcomed all their staff back.

At Manitoba Hydro, about five per cent of employees are back working full-time at the downtown headquarters.

At Manitoba Public Insurance’s City Place location, 30 per cent are back in the office.

At 201 Portage, a little over 40 per cent of their pre-pandemic workforce is back in the office.

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At Canada Life, they’ve transitioned 15 per cent of their employees back to the office while 85 per cent remain working from home.

Read more: Coronavirus: A look back at 6 months of pandemic in Manitoba

Cathy Weaver, Senior VP of Human Resources Canada at Canada Life, says they might permanently allow some staff to work from home since it’s gone so well the past six months.

“Enabling more of our employees to be able to work from home, whether on a full or part-time basis, has always been part of our longer term plan. That aspect wasn’t new. I have to admit that wasn’t planned for the end of the first quarter of 2020 that’s for sure,” she said.

“It’s easier for some than others depending on their home environment. What we’ve learned is how to adapt, and from a leadership perspective you don’t always have to see your employee every day to know they’re working and working hard to make sure we continue to serve our customers and work effectively.”

Working from home taxes
Working from home taxes

Patrick O’Reilly, CEO Padraig Consulting, says it’s been a challenge for both employers and employees.

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“It’s really hard for teams to accomplish things together. Teamwork happens best when there’s those casual conversations in hallways and you can poke your head into the door and that’s a lot harder to do when you’re working from home,” he said.

“People have realized that they can do this — it functions. Some people do want to work from home. Others have realized they don’t like this at all and want to get back to socializing with their colleagues and can achieve things as a team far easier in person.

“The reality is we are going to see a blend.”