Nearly 50 per cent of Ottawa residents working from home

Nearly half of Ottawa's workforce continued to work from home in April, even as COVID-19 restrictions continued to ease in Ontario.

Statistics Canada says 45.8 per cent of Ottawa employees were working either partly or exclusively from home last month, including federal public servants.

StatsCan says the high number of employees working from home in Ottawa is partly explained by the composition of the workforce, with two of five people in Ottawa working in one of the following three industries:

  • Public administration, including federal workers
  • Professional, scientific and technical services
  • Finance, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing

Across Canada, 19 per cent of workers were working exclusively from home in April, down from 24.3 per cent in January.

"The future of working from home and hybrid work is of concern to many cities, as it may impact transit, zoning, and other areas of interest to municipal authorities," StatsCan said in its monthly Labour Force Survey.

In Gatineau, 39.4 per cent of residents are working from home exclusively or part-time. In Toronto, 35 per cent of residents are telecommuting.

The Conference Board of Canada says 350,000 workers in the Ottawa-Gatineau region are now telecommuting part-time or full-time, which will have a major impact on the downtown core in the months and years ahead.

"What that means, I think, is going to essentially open up an awful 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 do think there's going to be an excess supply of office space opening up as we come to the realization that we no longer need this space."

Antunes says the continued working from home by public servants and office workers will hurt downtown businesses moving forward.

"I think it's going to be a major hit to those businesses that supply or that cater to the downtown office worker because we're just not going to see a full recovery to where we were pre-pandemic," Antunes said.

Samantha Lapierre says she's enjoyed working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"When I’m done for the day, I just logoff - and I’m home," Lapierre said, adding it's been really good for her mental health.

Commercial real estate broker Jarek Jenicek says he is helping offices downsize their space, and to adapt to more employees working from home.

"For example, Zoom rooms or breakout rooms where people can have an impromptu meeting, as opposed to the typical cubicle farm that we could have seen in the past," Jenicek said.

“It goes to show that people can be working from home or in the office, and still do great work.”

The federal government has directed each department to develop plans to bring federal employees back to the office; however, Treasury Board President Mona Fortier admits hybrid work is here to stay.

“We have to look at how we’re going to strengthen our downtown core, and making sure that 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, lowering the unemployment rate to 5.2 per cent.

Statistics Canada reported Gatineau's unemployment rate was 2.6 per cent in April, down from 3.8 per cent in March.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Peter Szperling