Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) is betting that its “hospitality inspired approach” for designing its CIBC SQUARE office will help attract talent and encourage employees to come into the office.

In an interview with BNN Bloomberg, Claudette Knight, vice-president of workplace design and experience at CIBC, said it was important for them to create a flexible workplace for employees returning to the office, after years of workflow changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“People got used to the flexibility of working from home so the fact that we took a real hospitality inspired approach to design this [CIBC SQUARE] space, I think is really helpful for us,” Knight said.

“So when employees come to the office, there’s a real range of work settings that they can access depending on the activity.”

Construction for the CIBC SQUARE office in downtown Toronto first started on June 21, 2017. The company started to move employees into the new office space earlier this year in March.

CIBC SQUARE’s second and final tower is still under construction and is expected to be completed in 2025. Once both buildings are finished, they will account for a total three million square feet in downtown Toronto office space.

Knight said she thinks their use of technology, different work settings and food markets create a “compelling value proposition” for employees to “maintain the flexibility and the benefits of working from home,” while being in the office.

She added another important consideration they took into account with Toronto’s newest office building was accessibility.

“[We were] very intentional with accessibility to Union Station because ESG [environmental, social, and governance] is a real priority for the bank,” Knight said.

The CIBC SQUARE office building is connected to Union Station through the PATH network, while the new Union Station Bus Terminal is actually part of the office building itself.


The return to office movement has been a prevalent debate across many industries.

In September, a survey by the Future Skills Centre found almost four-out-of-five Canadians (78 per cent) say they prefer working from home, which marked a 64 per cent increase since Dec. 2020.

The survey also found that 42 per cent of respondents, who have been working from home, would like to continue being remote almost every day, while one-out-of-four (25 per cent) would want to go into the office two or three days a week.

Knight said CIBC leaders will be working with their individual teams to determine what makes sense for their position and how many days a week they’ll be required to come in.

To help lure staff back into the office, some companies have started offering free amenities like childcare and catered lunches.

Knight said CIBC SQUARE has resources like micro markets, reflection rooms for employees who need a space to practice their faith during the work day, lactation rooms and a Legacy Space for engaging with Indigenous communities.

“I think the focus that we've had on wellbeing, all these factors together, make it a very compelling value proposition if you will for employees to come in and we're seeing really good utilization of our campus,” Knight said.

“But again we're maintaining the flexibility so that employees, when they're here, they can access the amenities, they can access the design and optimize it, but also still maintain the flexibility and the benefits of working from home.”