Employees in Ontario adjust to their ‘new normal’

by | Nov 20, 2020 | City News, News

Gabriele Barbieri, a buyer at Desco Plumbing and Heating, knows as well as anyone how much the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the economy.

Barbieri had started a new job at the company based in the Greater Toronto Area a month before the pandemic and soon found herself laid off.

“When I got laid off, for example, they made sure we would have access to health insurance, and we would receive partially our salary, or we could have access to all the benefits that were coming from the government,” she said.

Many people have faced the same fate as Barbieri, with Statistics Canada reporting unemployment rose by 1.9 million people from April to August.

And not everyone was lucky enough to have as soft of a landing as Barbieri’s company provided.

As the economy reopened, the company applied health restrictions, which were respected and lunchrooms were closed. Many employees worked from home, while others visited the office once or twice a week. But even with all restrictions imposed by the company, Barbieri does not feel entirely safe.

“There’s no way you can be 100 per cent safe because you’re seeing people that might be seeing other people that might not respect all the things that we have to do,” she said.

For those still working, the world has changed, especially in how commuters regard public transportation.

Raphael Silva, a certified trainer at the Yonge and Bloor Streets Chick-fil-A, said public transit could be problematic because people do not put sufficient effort into protecting themselves and others.

“People will have masks on the chin, masks with the nose out or they don’t use masks at all,” Silva said.

Statistics Canada said 38 per cent of individuals over 18 have at least one health condition that puts them at higher risk of severe outcomes related to COVID-19.

That includes Elias Seagrove, a condo superintendent, who has asthma and tried to lower his risk of getting COVID-19 by staying away from public transportation.

Paul Seagrove enjoying a day out at a local business. (Courtesy Elias Seagrove)

“I had to buy an electric bike to help me not to be, you know, inside of buses and subway, full of people,” Seagrove said.

He is trying to make himself safe in the workplace, constantly washing his hands and wearing a mask. The superintendent and his husband, Paul Seagrove, are doing all they can to adapt to this “new normal.”

Paul Seagrove works for TD Bank and, for the first time in his career, is working from home, along with many of the bank’s 90,000 employees.

He decided to establish a routine working from home: working office hours and maintaining as much of the rhythm of a normal day as possible. He also tries to get outside every day.

“Making a new routine at home and making new boundaries in my workday has been a big challenge,” he said. “But once I was able to do that, working from home has become much easier and much more enjoyable.”