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Some Newmarket residents grappling with return to commuter lifestyle

Residents share mixed reactions as some employers begin recalling workers back to the office
2022 03 23 - Newmarket Commuters - JQ
Newmarket resident Sam Burton (left), alongside his father, Ted Burton, said starting up commutes to his downtown Toronto job is a mixed bag.

Newmarket resident Sam Burton said heading back to his downtown Toronto office is a “mixed bag.”

Burton started working at an accounting firm in September, beginning online before working in person. After working remotely again since December, he is being asked by his employer to start coming back to the office over the last month. 

“It’s nice to get out of the house. It can get tough working from home every day of the week,” Burton said, while waiting for the GO train to Toronto at the Newmarket station. “But at the same time, it’s nice not having to commute.”

As COVID-19 mandates begin to lift, local workers are grappling with a return to the office and commuting. Although some are accepting of the changes, others are expressing frustration.

A Newmarket resident who works at a downtown law firm, who asked her name be withheld over employment concerns, said she thinks she is more productive working from home. With her employer now asking for at least three days of the week in the office, she said it is not the best situation.

“I much prefer to be at home. That I’m there for my family,” she said. “I also don’t see the point of having to go downtown when I’ve already proven I can work from home … They should look at things individually.” 

While it is an employer's right to bring workers back into workplace, involving the employee in the decision is important, said health and safety team lead Catherine Bergeron at Peninsula Canada, a Toronto-based human relations consulting firm.

"This will make your employees feel valued, comfortable, and empowered when it comes to making these decisions," she said.

Bergeron also said workplaces should have employee support at the ready and a return-to-work plan to ensure a smooth transition.

But not everyone is getting forced back to work at the office. Local resident Guy Daly, a stock trader for a Toronto firm, said after 40 years in the business, he has worked from home for the past two years and is sticking with it.

“A lot of it is just the time I’ve put into commuting,” he said, adding not travelling is a major time saver. “I've got a couple of dogs at home, so they enjoy the companionship." 

Daly said his employer is allowing for it.

“My job, I can do exactly the same thing (from home) with the same results,” he added.

For those who are going back to the office, even if it's a hybrid of some days at home, Bergeron said it is important to "build the hype."

"Find a way to celebrate being together and to remind people there is value in seeing each other in person and not through a screen," she said.

Burton said he is splitting time between the office and working home, which he said is a fair solution that is "the best of both worlds." 

“There are positives to both. On the one hand, you don’t waste a lot of time commuting when you work from home. But on the other hand, it’s hard to meet people, get to know people (remotely),” he said.