Google exec fears ‘overenthusiasm’ in returning to work in Canada amid COVID-19 pandemic

As local governments across Canada begin to reopen parts of the country in phases during the COVID-19 pandemic, some tech executives are left with a number of concerns.

On May 15th, tech company support group Communitech presented an online panel discussion featuring leaders from Google, Manulife, TD Bank Group and Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada.

One of the most notable comments, per The Record, came from Steve Woods, Google’s Canada engineering and Kitchener site lead.

“I’m very concerned about overenthusiasm and magical thinking in the return to the office, culturally, in Canada,” said Woods. He went on to discuss a “persistent misunderstanding” among Canadians about how the virus can spread through aerosol droplets, even from those who don’t exhibit symptoms.

He noted that slowing the spread “is a manageable process to some extent, but it needs a lot of societal buy-in and support” that he doesn’t think has been given yet.

For his part, John Thomas, executive vice-president and head of global innovation for TD Bank Group, acknowledged that he has colleagues who would like to return to the office. However, he stated that there should be flexibility in allowing people to continue to work remotely.

To that point, Kathryn Kitchen, Manulife head of human resources, noted that businesses will need to “give people that sense of safety while we start to think about coming back to work.”

As it stands, the reopening strategies being employed across Canada vary depending on the government. For example, the Government of Ontario will allow retail stores that aren’t in shopping malls to permit a limited number of customers to enter, starting May 19th. However, Mississauga, one of the province’s largest cities, is not yet ready to reopen at this pace, according to mayor Bonnie Crombie.

Meanwhile, B.C. says kids will be able to return to school on a part-time, voluntary basis starting June 1st. Of course, this means that teachers, custodians and other workers will be returning to schools as well.

While the tech leaders in the Communitech panel didn’t propose specific long-term ways to resume work safely, one thing is for sure: we’ll all need to proceed with caution.

Via: The Record