Nearly half of Ottawa’s workforce continued to work from home in April, even as Ontario’s COVID-19 restrictions eased.
Statistics Canada says 45.8 percent of workers in Ottawa worked partially or exclusively from home last month, including federal officials.
StatsCan says the high number of employees working from home in Ottawa is partly explained by the composition of the workforce, with two out of five Ottawa employees working in one of three industries:
- Public administration, including federal employees
- Professional, scientific and technical services
- Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing
Across Canada, 19 percent of workers worked exclusively from home in April, up from 24.3 percent in January.
“The future of telecommuting and hybrid work is a concern for many cities as it could impact transit, zoning and other areas of interest for municipal authorities,” StatsCan said in its monthly workforce survey.
In Gatineau, 39.4 percent of residents work exclusively or part-time from home. In Toronto, 35 percent of the residents telecommute.
The Conference Board of Canada says 350,000 employees in the Ottawa-Gatineau region are now telecommuting part-time or full-time, which will have a major impact on the downtown area in the coming months and years.
“What that means, I think, will essentially open up a lot of office space in the coming years,” chief economist Pedro Antunes told CTV News at noon.
“We know it’s a lot of public sector workers, but I think there will be a surplus of office space when we come to the realization that we no longer need this space.”
Antunes says continued homeworking by officials and office workers will hurt future downtown businesses.
“I think it’s going to be a big hit for those companies that supply or target the downtown office worker because we’re just not going to see a full recovery to where we were pre-pandemic,” Antunes said.
The federal government has instructed each department to develop plans to return federal employees to the office; Mona Fortier, president of the Treasury Board, admits, however, that hybrid work has become indispensable.
“We need to look at how we’re going to strengthen our downtown area and make sure we don’t keep these offices empty,” Fortier told CTV News Ottawa on April 11.
The Treasury Board has launched a “strategic policy review” of the public service, looking at how the government can adapt to a post-pandemic reality.
Ottawa’s economy added 12,600 jobs in April, pushing the unemployment rate to 5.2 percent.
Statistics Canada reported that Gatineau’s unemployment rate was 2.6 percent in April, up from 3.8 percent in March.