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Temur Durrani

Multi-Platform Writer


One of Canada’s top office landlords believes Ontario public health is giving “odd and amorphous” messaging by asking employers to allow people “to work from home whenever possible."

On Monday, Michael Emory, chief executive officer of Allied Properties Real Estate Investment Trust, said he does not quite understand or agree with Ontario Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kieran Moore’s advice despite rising COVID-19 cases. 

“Just as I am asking individuals to continue practicing public health measures and get vaccinated, I’m also asking businesses and organizations to remain diligent and vigilant," Moore said at a press conference Friday.

"We are asking that employers ask their employees to work from home whenever possible,” Moore said, adding that working from home helps to reduce disease transmission.

In an interview, Emory said the province's top doctor is making “an odd and amorphous kind of request.”

"I don't know what every effort means," Emory said. "If it means that people who can work optimally from home should be allowed to do so, I understand it. If it means people who can't work optimally from home should do so, I don't understand and don't agree with it."
The outspoken office landlord has not been shy about wanting workers back in office buildings, previously asking the CEOs of large banks over the summer to “find a backbone” and start leading employees back into work. 
His company, Allied Properties REIT, is a developer and operator of many major office properties in some of Canada’s largest cities. This means Allied has a big stake in shifting businesses away from a continuation of remote work plans. 

Emory thinks every business has to make a judgement about whether or not its employees can be “most optimal” at the office. From his perspective, news of the Omicron variant should not have much of a bearing on the overall return to office spaces. 

"This does not appear to dampen or diminish plans of returning to work," he said, adding that 1,100 out of his 1,700 or so clients — ranging from major companies to small startups — have already reopened their offices.

At Allied’s own offices, Emory said his staff performs best when they are not working remotely. To that end, Allied workers are fully-vaccinated and tested twice a week for COVID-19, while following all other pandemic protocols, Emory said.
"None of us can eliminate the risk," he added. "But we can manage, temper and moderate."

The comments from Ontario’s top doctor on Friday had come as the City of Toronto previously announced it would reopen all city-run buildings at maximum capacity come January, with Mayor John Tory stating his hopes that the move would motivate other employers to reopen their workplaces.

On Monday, the City of Toronto pulled back on earlier assurances, stating: "As a result of this change in guidance, city office staff will continue to work remotely until there are changes to these provincial public health guidelines."

City-run offices hold approximately 25 per cent of Toronto's entire workforce, per recent estimates.

"Office staff have been incredibly productive and shown great ingenuity while working remotely, and I know that will continue," said Toronto City Manager Chris Murray. "I look forward to welcoming staff back to offices when it is safe to do so."