For the first time since the start of this pandemic, we have a path back to normal.
Last week, the Province of Ontario laid out its plan to safely reopen Ontario and manage COVID-19 for the long term. This includes lifting capacity limits this week for businesses that require proof of vaccination, including restaurants, bars, gyms, and arenas.
The really big news out of the announcement is seeing an end date. If all goes according to plan, on March 28, 2022, remaining public health and safety measures will be lifted. No more mask, proof of
vaccination or social distancing requirements.
Of course, the whole “if all goes according to plan” is a big if. Not much has gone according to plan for the last couple years. But it’s the first time our provincial
government has been confident enough to put a date on the end of this and, right now, that’s a big light at the end of what has been an awfully long tunnel.
Between now and then, the Province plans to gradually scale back public health restrictions. By mid-January, they’ll remove vaccine certificate requirements for lower risk settings like restaurants, bars and recreational facilities.
Of course, the end of March isn’t going to just be a big reset back to 2019. The lifting of mandatory public health measures won’t be a snap of the fingers back to whatever it is we each want normal to be.
It’s going to take a while to work through our habits and hesitations for social contact — and with good reason. Some of us are going to abandon our masks with great excitement and seek out physical contact. Others are going to want their space and thorough public hygiene.
While some things seemed to have been on hold throughout this public health crisis, others have moved ahead by leaps and bounds. Business went online in a big way and we’re going to continue shopping, ordering and booking online. Committee, board, and team meetings that can be done over video will continue to be.
The hybrid workplace is going to continue to evolve. Some people like working in a
physical office, others like working from home, but it’s expected that quite a few people will maintain a hybrid setup that involves a bit of both. According to Statistics Canada’s third quarter Canadian Survey on Business Conditions, 15% of businesses anticipate shrinking their physical office locations. This also impacts neighbouring businesses who have depended on office staff grabbing lunch or picking up a few things on their way home.
Working from home has also opened people up to work opportunities well outside our region.
Then there are some big items that are going to take strong leadership to sort out. Pressure is mounting on our federal and provincial governments as well as employers to offer paid sick days. The days of workers showing up sick and powering through are over. Neither are schools likely to accept a coughing or
snotty-nosed kid, keeping a parent home to look after them. Some of us can make it up by working from home. However, for many workers, there isn’t a lot of choice if not showing up means not getting paid.
Employers are passing the pressure from employees on to the upper levels of
government to create permanent sick day reimbursements through programs like employment insurance.
We have new cohorts of people getting retrained and reinvesting in their skills. Our post-secondary institutions are taking a renewed look at their role in developing the skills and qualifications needed for a new, modernized workplace.
We have a lot to sort out as far as what 2022 and beyond is going to look like, both in personal and business terms. But getting serious about what a post-COVID world is going to look like is