Most Vancouver office workers won't return to workplace until summer at the earliest

Jan 20 2021, 7:15 pm

There will not be any return to business as usual for at least most of 2021, according to a new survey on businesses in Metro Vancouver.

A new Mustel group survey in partnership with the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade found that most businesses believe they will continue to see challenges throughout the year.

Seven-in-ten office-based businesses do not anticipate the majority of their employees returning to their office workplace until the Summer of 2021 or later, but only about 10% of these businesses do not expect the majority to ever return.

Approximately 25% will request or incentivize their office employees to receive a vaccine before returning.

While a complete abandonment of office-based work is extremely unlikely, businesses indicated there would be some semi-permanent changes as the pandemic’s grip begins to lift. Office employers believe there will be a lasting expansion of work-from-home policies (62%), increased reliance on digital communication tools (70%), and a reduction in office space requirements (34%).

Across the board, more than six-in-ten businesses are still experiencing decreased sales volumes as a result of the pandemic, and seven-in-ten of businesses impacted by holiday spending state they experienced lower holiday season revenues compared to previous years.

As well, 36% of companies are seeing higher operating costs, over 33% have deferred or cancelled capital projects, 28% have had to postpone contracts or tenders, and 26% have delayed or cancelled marketing projects.

Nearly a third of businesses have had staff layoffs (32%) and reduced operating hours (31%) to account for lower revenues. On the other hand, many businesses have also been able to adapt; about 40% have introduced or increased their online or digital presence, with 21% creating new products and 16% seeing increased sales volumes from this shift.

Moving forward into 2021, 48% of respondents expect they will see lower revenues in the next three to six months. Over 40% of businesses expect to reduce their investments into their operations over the course of the year.

For further mitigation measures this year, 24% of businesses expect to layoff employees, 22% are getting ready to reduce employee hours, and 16% will take on debt to cover costs.

“While many hoped that the new year would offer some light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, these results show that many businesses are barely treading water as they enter 2021,” said Bridgitte Anderson, president and CEO of the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade, in a statement.

“The near-term outlook is uncertain, with many leaders anxious about what the future holds for their businesses. Our entrepreneurs are resilient and are investing and pivoting to digital as they forge a path that will help them to not only navigate the pandemic but guide our region to prosperity in the future.”

Of course, much of the economic recovery and the return to normality hinges on the timeline of vaccine inoculations. The provincial government has stated mass vaccinations of the general population will begin in April, and by September, everyone who wants the vaccine will be able to get one.

Kenneth ChanKenneth Chan

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