Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Brian Hartlen, vice president of product marketing for Verafin Inc., is photographed at the Verafin satellite office in Toronto on March 11, 2020.

Tijana Martin/The Globe and Mail

A growing number of Canadian companies are asking employees to work from home in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Technology companies, many of which already provide workers remote access, have fewer barriers to making the switch, while other office-based businesses are also putting together contingency plans and ramping up technological capabilities.

The increased steps involve plans to address problems around confidential information, ensuring productivity and helping employees deal with the potential mental-health issues that may result from working at home for long periods. Remote work will not be an option for those in service industries or those who require specialized equipment.

Story continues below advertisement

Newfoundland’s Verafin Inc., the largest domestic technology company in Atlantic Canada, said Wednesday it is encouraging employees to work remotely, hoping that 90 per cent of its 500 workers will take up the option. The fraud-detection software provider also scrapped plans for a company anniversary party Friday that was expected to attract 1,000 guests to the St. John’s Convention Centre and feature a performance by Sam Roberts Band.

Around 600 Toronto employees of health-marketing agency Klick Health have been working at home since Monday, while health-benefits startup League Inc. said it has been rotating teams of workers through remote work. Google Inc., which has offices in Toronto, Montreal and Kitchener, said its North American offices remain open but the company has recommended employees work from home.

Ottawa-based Shopify Inc. said it will ask all employees to work remotely as of Monday. The company has 4,000 employees in Canada and says half of its work force, primarily customer support workers, already work remotely.

Other white-collar employers are testing web-conferencing systems and other software, buying extra laptops and crafting new policies for employees who don’t typically work from home, says Kathleen Chevalier, an employment law partner at Stikeman Elliott LLP in Toronto. She said companies are setting out productivity expectations and providing guidelines on items such as handling confidential information while off-site.

"Issues that you don’t have to think about in the office environment, you might have to turn your mind to in the home environment,” she said. "It’s this idea that you are, in fact, working from home. So, while you may be in your sweatpants and not having to commute in, the expectation is that you are still producing at the level you would otherwise be expected.”

Doron Melnick, a partner in KPMG’s people and change advisory services division, said conversations around remote working have increased significantly in the past 48 hours.

“We’re not seeing these blanket, everybody-work-from-home situations for the majority of organizations, but what we are starting to see – and this is true of our own organization – is curtailing the number of large meetings, and only having the meetings in person if it’s critical.”

Story continues below advertisement

Certain bank employees, such as traders, do require specialized equipment and cannot work from home, Mr. Melnick said.

“What we want to do is split them onto separate floors, so we don’t have entire teams going down. And there’s a cascade effect. In order to free up the space to split up teams across floors, you might ask certain teams to go and work from home.”

Companies are suggesting employees carry laptops everywhere, even on vacation in the event that they get stranded somewhere and need to work, Mr. Melnick said. Most financial services companies already use remote working tools, such as voice-over IP, Skype for Business and Slack, and he said that many of those companies have contingency plans in place, with some having faced previous building shutdowns owing to electrical fires or flooding in Toronto’s downtown core.

Still, he said that the isolation of working from home for extended periods of time can lead to its own stress, and employers should help workers prepare from a psychological perspective by letting them know, “this might be the new normal for a while.”

“I think we’re going to see as people put their technical plans in place … the next wave of thinking will be around how do we sustain this if we need to? How do we offer the right mental-health supports?”

“There’s nothing more important than staying connected," Klick Health president Lori Grant said. "Whether that’s virtual coffees – where you both go get a coffee, put yourself on video and have that coffee together – or lunch. The things that you would normally do in an office environment, you can replicate that.”

Story continues below advertisement

Meanwhile, working from home will simply not be possible for many others, says Andréa Coutu, a Vancouver-based marketing consultant and entrepreneur coach.

“I’m hearing from entrepreneurs and employers in service industries that this is going to be painful … Some are talking to banks and property managers about credit terms. How do you pay the bills if no one is at your shop? This is going to hit some businesses very hard.”

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies