Workers all across North America are slowly returning to the office, but here in Toronto, the rate of return is below that of more than a dozen other major cities across the continent.
A new real-time measure of downtown foot traffic, created by Avision Young, is being used to measure the return to office rates for major North American cities. Dubbed The Vitality Index, it collects data on 23 cities, comparing current downtown foot traffic levels to pre-pandemic levels.
Toronto ranked 18th out of the 23 cities, with foot traffic down a whopping 85.8% from the week of March 2, 2020. Only Silicon Valley, Oakland, Miami, and Ottawa ranked lower.
Three other Canadian cities, however, made it into the top 5, with Calgary (-57.9%) and Edmonton (-63.3%) taking second and third place, and Vancouver (-67.5%) taking fifth. Boston, which is down only 55%, took the top spot on the list, and Austin (-64.3%) came fourth.
With no city having yet hit a less than 50% difference to pre-pandemic levels, Avision Yong says that many companies are still deciding whether a return to office is safe.
“Everyone is looking for the Goldilocks position – companies don’t want to move too early or too late,” said Avison Young’s President of Professional Services for the Americas, Sheila Botting. “The Vitality Index is wildly important for people looking to understand what is happening in real-time and over time in major markets. It measures the pace so that leaders can make decisions based on concrete information and analytics.”
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Even as offices start to reopen, Botting says that the way people work will likely look different from before the pandemic.
“One size does not fit all,” Botting notes. “Each organization is different. Each employee is different. And when you put it all together, we will need more dynamic environments that will allow us all to move forward.”