Media Releases Jun 10, 2021

Four things we need to get right for the reopening of offices: Canadian Chamber of Commerce


(OTTAWA) – June 10, 2021 – Canadians all want to return to a semblance of normal as quickly as possible, and for many, that includes going back to the office. The nature of work has changed significantly in the last 18 months however, and our workplaces need to adapt quickly.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce today released a 21-point plan to provide guidance for businesses and policy recommendations for governments on four key areas for the re-opening of the economy: health/safety, teleworking, skills/training and the future of customer engagement.

“While getting through the immediate phase of the pandemic is top of mind for businesses and government, it is critical to start to plan now for the return to the workplace. Planning now will mean employers and employees are better placed to accelerate a return to operations under the new normal, which puts us one step closer to economic recovery. The faster we get there, together, the better, and that’s why the decisions we make today matter,” said Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Health and Safety

There are numerous considerations for employers to think through now to be able to react quickly, particularly the need to manage a workforce that may not be entirely vaccinated. Although vaccination and herd immunity will be the long-term solutions to the pandemic, a suite of complementary measures will need to be used by businesses to rebuild trust that the workplace is safe to return to.  These include rapid screening, ventilation upgrades and monitoring, as well as masking and monitoring protocols.

In order to do so successfully, the government must provide clarity on what employers can ask of their employees’ vaccination status, harmonize vaccine credential systems, provide clear guidance on workplace infection prevention and consistent criteria for safe re-opening of businesses.

Telework

The world of work has changed. Social distancing and health and safety protocols imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic forced firms to introduce telework on a large scale. Once the pandemic is over, many of these changes are anticipated to remain in the form of a hybrid work cycle for most businesses. There are several actions businesses can take to build a “new normal” workplace that aims to incorporate the positive aspects of teleworking and limits the risks, including synchronizing the physical and remote workplace, reframing the office as a hub for engagement and improving cybersecurity.

To facilitate this shift, governments must improve Canada’s digital infrastructure, provide fiscal incentives to support remote work and establish national cybersecurity standards.

Workforce Skills

Developing enduring workforce skills and talent pipelines is critical to building the resilience of companies and workers in order to grow in the post-pandemic economy. Although this has always been important for businesses, it takes on an added importance given the pandemic has accelerated digital adoption, automation and other technologies. There are key actions companies should implement to improve workforce upskilling and reskilling, build a culture of lifelong learning and better utilize their existing workforce.

Employers also need a closer alignment of business needs, the labour market and education programming to inform both education policy and appropriate fiscal incentives.

Customer Experience

Consumer spending habits changed drastically during the pandemic, resulting in a considerable increase in e-commerce and curbside pickup. Although many consumers will want to revert to in-person experiences, more activity is likely to structurally shift to remain online. The pandemic has also not abated the increasing consumer desire to purchase products that have been responsibly sourced. Businesses should keep a close eye on emerging environment, social and governance (ESG) initiatives.

Governments can help businesses make these transitions to the new digitized environment by updating Canada’s privacy rules to protect customer data.

For more information on the Canadian Chamber’s 21-point plan, click here.

The recommendations were developed with advice from the Canadian Chamber’s COVID-19 Recovery Leadership Council, a group of CEOs and senior executives from leading companies contributing their entrepreneurial skills and experience in delivering projects at scale. The goal of the council is to advise on practical solutions to reduce and ultimately eliminate COVID-19 in Canada and pave the way for a business-led economic recovery. For more on the Canadian Chamber’s COVID-19 Recovery Leadership Council, click here.

About the Canadian Chamber of Commerce – Because Business Matters

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce helps build the businesses that support our families, our communities and our country. We do this by influencing government policy, by providing essential business services and by connecting businesses to information they can use, to opportunities for growth and to a network of local chambers, businesses, decision-makers and peers from across the country, in every sector of the economy and at all levels of government, as well as internationally. We are unapologetic in our support for business and the vital role it plays in building and sustaining our great nation.

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For more information, please contact:
Phil Taylor
ptaylor@chamber.ca (preferred and fastest response time)