Food pick-up hubs. Crowded-transit trackers. What to expect when Toronto heads back to the office

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Fourteen months after the pandemic emptied Toronto’s office towers of workers, there are still unoccupied “rush hour” seats on the TTC, GO’s once-packed commuter lots remain vacant and soggy coffee cups have given way to used face masks rolling down the street like so much urban tumbleweed.

But make no mistake, said Toronto Region Board of Trade CEO Jan De Silva — vaccines and reopenings in other cities suggest the day is drawing near when Torontonians will crack open the door to the office.

She describes a new hybrid post-pandemic workplace, one that incorporates carefully orchestrated face-to-face collaboration with elements of remote work such as flexible office attendance and limited gatherings around the water cooler and coffee pot.

Re-entry will be a process — hesitant, cautious — but downtown offices will open up and when that day arrives workplaces will be ready, said De Silva.

Months ago, a committee of 70 business leaders began working with the board of trade, preparing for the return of the workforce and researching places that have safely reopened ahead of Toronto — Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, Auckland and parts of the U.S.

Based on their experiences, De Silva said, it’s likely only 25 to 30 per cent of Toronto office workers will return to their desks in the first 60 days of reopening. But workplaces will scale up from there.