A new report from Avison Young shows Edmontonians appear ready to return to the office after nearly two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its third quarter 2021 office market report found 35 per cent of the workforce is returning to offices when compared to pre-pandemic levels.
Downtown specifically is about 53 per cent below pre-pandemic levels.
“Working from home has been working very well, but our studies show employees also miss the work environment. They miss the connection with their colleagues.”
Avison Young managing director Cory Wosnack said there were a few reasons Edmonton was seeing the workforce return.
Alberta saw fewer restrictions than other provinces over the summer which allowed people to return to offices.
Wosnack also credited a limited reliance on public transit.
“In other areas where there’s a higher dependency on public transportation, there’s a health hesitancy to get on a crowded train and that hasn’t been an issue in Edmonton,” he explained.
The restart of sports could also be playing a role. With both Rogers Place and Commonwealth Stadium in the core, Wosnack believes people are visiting downtown, which is producing a need for hospitality workers at restaurants and bars.
Despite the progress, many office towers remain empty.
The report found a 16.7 per cent office vacancy rate across the city.
Edmonton’s downtown is seeing a slightly higher office vacancy rate, currently sitting at 17.2 per cent.
The commercial real estate services firm anticipates the trend to remain static through the end of the year, with even more employees returning in 2022.
“The buildings that will be the most successful in bringing staff back into them will be the buildings that have amenities like fitness and hospitality and even pet friendly buildings now,” said Wosnack.
The report also found offices are changing how work looks.
Several companies have spread out cubicles and created more co-working spaces. Some also got rid of standard working hours, instead allowing employees to work from where and when it is convenient for them.
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