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What offices might look like in a post-COVID world –



Workers looking forward to their return to the office and a sense of normalcy should brace themselves for a wide range of new safety protocols. 

The post-pandemic workplace could include greater distance between desks, mandatory masks, shift work and lineups to take crowd-free elevators or get a temperature check, according to people who design and lay out offices for a living.

Advisers at Canadian commercial real estate and architecture have issued guidelines to clients on how to prepare for their employees’ return to Canadian workspaces once it’s deemed appropriate. They say many changes will be required.

Spoiler alert: It’s not going to be fun. And it’s not going to be fast.

“It will be a very slow, graduated return to work with employees that are critical to the business,” says Lisa Fulford, a senior vice-president with commercial real estate giant CBRE, based in Toronto. “A lot of the social areas that we use when we’re at work — break spaces, lunchrooms, food courts, cafés — many of those will be coming back slowly, as well.”

More personal space

Once staff arrive, there will have to be more breathing room. Seating plans should be modified in order to physically distance workers, say advisers.

That will reverse a decades-long trend. Companies in high-rent downtown cores across Canada have been cramming workers into closer proximity to each other for years. Open-plan offices with small workstations and few private offices can save space and reduce real estate costs. In some workplaces, dividers between cubicles have been abandoned, as well, to encourage teamwork and collaboration.

A graphic from architecture firm Gensler illustrates how employers can colour-code a floor plan to show the stages of re-entry, and which desks have been ‘approved for occupancy.’ (Gensler)

But studies done even before the pandemic have shown that employees working in shared or open-plan offices call in sick more often. The term “office plague” became common long before COVID-19 hit, to describe the phenomenon when a flu or cold spreads among an entire pod of workers. 

Shift work

Now, amid fears of COVID contagion, those types of densely populated indoor environments seem downright dangerous.

Architecture firm Gensler has posted a to-do list for office managers transitioning employees back to work. Job number one is “rethink density.” 

The firm promotes a tool it created that uses “generative algorithms” to take the existing layout of a workplace and create new scenarios to meet physical distancing conditions. Desks can be staggered, giving every worker a larger perimeter of free space around them.

Annie Bergeron, Gensler’s design director in Toronto, says the firm is also suggesting that workers’ hours be modified. “One of the strategies that we are recommending for re-entry into the workplace is either shift work or a balance of work from home and work from the office, so that you don’t have too many people re-entering the workplace at the same time,” she said.

Annie Bergeron, design director at architecture firm Gensler, spoke to CBC News by video from her home office. (Dianne Buckner/CBC News)

Shifts could be organized by days of the week or hours of the day, according to Bergeron. Simply having fewer staff on the premises at any given time would be preferable for companies hesitant to incur the expense of additional space to accommodate distancing protocols.

Temperature checks

Bergeron also says the firm has discussed screening measures with its clients, in order to avoid admitting workers with symptoms of the virus. “Some of the screening could include restricting entry into the building from only one access point, instead of several access points. There could be interaction with security, just to make sure that people aren’t sick.”

That could lead to lineups and wait times to get into work.

Some Canadians could soon face a temperature check to get into their offices, similar to the way this employee was being checked in Shanghai in this photo from February. (Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images)

Walmart and Amazon have implemented temperature checks for workers, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has said offices will need to do the same. In Canada, Tim Hortons has mandated masks and temperature checks for employees.

Once employees get into the building, a number of other office routines will become more time-consuming, says Brent McKnight, an associate professor in strategic management at McMaster University’s business school in Hamilton.

Along with lining up to board an elevator, there could be additional effort required in other scenarios: “Waiting to go into a copier room after someone is finished using it, having sanitization practices to do after leaving a shared meeting room,” McKnight added.

One-way hallways

There could even be new ways to move around a building. “I think you’ll see one-way hallways and clear directional pathways around the office,” McKnight says. “Perhaps even physical markers like what they have in grocery stores and other places, to show people what a physical distance of two metres actually looks like.”

In a photo taken on April 9, employees in the cafeteria at the Hyundai Card company offices in Seoul sit behind protective screens as part of preventative measures against COVID-19. (Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images)

But all of these new practices may ease over time, says Fulford, of CBRE. “I think we’re talking about a pre-vaccine phase and a post-vaccine phase,” she said. “Certainly pre-vaccine, return to work isn’t going to be anything like business as usual because of the social distancing that’s required, and deep cleaning in between uses.”

Eventually some protocols may be relaxed, as governments, companies and workers begin to feel secure that COVID-19 is under control. Until then, familiar workplaces and habits of the recent past may feel very different.

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3 Canadian Dividend Stocks that Haven’t Missed a Payout for 100+ Years



Local dividend investors are lucky. They have a good selection of Canada’s finest companies to choose from – stocks that haven’t missed a dividend payment in decades. In fact, a small number of companies have paid uninterrupted dividends for a century or longer.

That’s a pretty impressive track record.

There’s just one problem. Instead of sticking with these excellent long-term dividend kings, investors get a little cute. They load up on lesser stocks, enticed by a succulent yield, deep value opportunity, or better growth potential. Sometimes these investments work out, but often they don’t.

There’s nothing wrong with that approach. After all, diversification is a good thing. But I still think the bedrock of the average Canadian investment portfolio should consist of these dividend kings, the kinds of companies you can count on no matter what.

This is doubly important in a COVID-19 world.

Let’s take a closer look at three of Canada’s top dividend kings, shares that have paid investors consistently for at least the past 100 years.

Bank of Montreal

We might as well start at the top. Bank of Montreal (TSX:BMO)(NYSE:BMO) has the longest dividend streak in Canada. It started paying a dividend back in 1829 and hasn’t missed a payment since. That’s a remarkable record.

BMO is hardly the largest bank in Canada. It’s only the fourth-largest. But it’s still a formidable company with a market cap exceeding $45 billion. The company has retail, commercial, and capital markets operations across both Canada and the United States. It’s also a big wealth manager on both sides of the border and is a major player in the exchange-traded fund market. In fact, BMO was the first major Canadian bank to expand into the United States.

Today is an excellent opportunity to pick up BMO shares on the cheap. Despite rallying significantly earlier in the week, this dividend king trades at just 8 times trailing earnings and slightly below book value. That’s the cheapest shares have been since 2009. BMO also pays a succulent 6% dividend yield, which is about 50% higher than normal.

Imperial Oil

Imperial Oil (TSX:IMO)(NYSEMKT:IMO) has been a stalwart in the Canadian energy sector for more than a century with history dating back to John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil. The company has paid consistent dividends for virtually its entire history, since the 1880s.

This dividend king has been undoubtedly hurt by the recent collapse in oil prices, but it easily has the balance sheet strength to survive. Its oil sands operations are among the best in the business, producing some 400,000 barrels of bitumen each day. Long-term reserves are also excellent, exceeding 6 billion barrels. And investors have to like the company’s downstream operations, which include several refineries and an fleet of Esso gas stations. It also provides fuel for Mobil branded stations in Canada.

Imperial Oil hasn’t just paid consistent dividends lately. It has increased its payout for 25 consecutive years. That’s an excellent record. Combine that with the current 3.9% yield and it’s an interesting opportunity.


BCE Inc. (TSX:BCE)(NYSE:BCE) was founded in 1880, just a few years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. It paid its first dividend to investors the next year and hasn’t looked back since. That’s a dividend streak of nearly 140 consecutive years for this dividend king.

BCE today looks stronger than ever. The company is the leading telecom provider in Canada, connecting more than 13 million customers to wireless data, cable television, internet, and home phone services. It has customers from coast to coast, too. It also owns a smattering of interesting media assets including top television stations, a collection of radio stations, video streaming service Crave, and pieces of several top sports franchises.

This dividend king also offers an excellent payout today. The current yield is 5.9%, a payout that is supported by earnings. BCE is a mature company today, meaning it can easily afford to pay out most of its cash flow back to investors.

The bottom line on these dividend kings

Don’t try and reinvent the wheel. The smart move is to load up on dividend kings like Bank of Montreal, Imperial Oil, and BCE for your income needs. It’s worked for the last century, and it sure looks good for the next century too.

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Source: – The Motley Fool Canada

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Edited By Harry Miller

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The close: TSX ends lower, crude has best month on record – The Globe and Mail



Canada’s main stock index ended a strong May a little weaker while crude oil prices enjoyed their best ever month, surging 88 per cent.

The S&P/TSX composite index closed down 69.90 points at 15,192.83. Sectors were mixed, with financials leading decliners with a 2% drop, as investors absorbed a week of earnings reports that featured massive loan loss provisions. Laurentian Bank lost 9.1% after cutting its dividend – the first such move by a major lender in almost three decades.

U.S. stocks finished mostly higher after President Donald Trump announced measures against China in response to new security legislation that were less threatening to the U.S. economy than investors had feared.

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The Dow ended the session slightly lower, but all three indexes registered gains for the month and the week.

The S&P 500 initially extended losses after Trump said he was directing his administration to begin the process of eliminating special treatment for Hong Kong in response to China’s plans to impose new security legislation in the semi-autonomous territory.

But Trump made no mention of any action that could undermine the Phase One trade deal that Washington and Beijing struck early this year, a concern that had cast a cloud over the market throughout the week.

“He began speaking in a very tough tone,” said Chris Zaccarelli, chief investment officer at Independent Advisor Alliance in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The market was worried he was going to announce something substantial, something detrimental to the U.S. economy. Then, as he spoke, it became clear the actions being taken were not going to be as dramatic as originally feared.”

Trump also said the United States is terminating its relationship with the World Health Organization, something he had threatened to do earlier this month.

S&P 500 technology shares gave the index its biggest boost, while financials were the biggest drag.

The latest confrontation between the U.S. and China has fueled concern that worsening tensions between the two world’s largest economies could derail the recent sharp gains in the stock market.

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Expectations of a quick economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic have driven the S&P 500 up more than 30% from its March lows.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 17.53 points, or 0.07%, to 25,383.11, the S&P 500 gained 14.58 points, or 0.48%, to 3,044.31, and the Nasdaq Composite added 120.88 points, or 1.29%, to 9,489.87.

For the month, the Dow added 3.9%, the S&P 500 gained 4.5%, and the Nasdaq rose 6.8%. For the week, the Dow and S&P 500 each rose more than 3%, and the Nasdaq gained 1.8%.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Friday that New York City is “on track” to enter phase one of reopening on June 8, and he said five upstate regions will now transition to phase two.

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, speaking in a webcast organized by Princeton University Friday, reiterated the U.S. central bank’s promise to use its tools to shore up the economy amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Twitter was down 2% and Facebook Inc shares slipped 0.2%, a day after Trump signed an order threatening social media firms with new regulations over free speech.

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Upscale department store chain Nordstrom Inc slumped 11% after it reported a near 40% fall in quarterly sales due to pandemic-led store closures. Inc slipped 3.5% as the cloud-based business software maker cut its annual revenue and profit forecasts.

The July crude contract was up US$1.78 at US$35.49 per barrel and the July natural gas contract was up 2.2 cents at nearly US$1.85 per mmBTU. Futures closed out May with record monthly gains, on hopes that the U.S.-China trade deal would remain intact and on falling crude production.

The August gold contract was up US$23.40 at US$1,751.70 an ounce and the July copper contract was up 1.2 cents at nearly US$2.43 a pound.

Read more: Stocks seeing action Friday – and why

Reuters, The Canadian Press, Globe staff

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Laurentian Bank cuts dividend by 40%




Laurentian Bank slashed its dividend by 40 per cent on Friday, the first such move by a major Canadian lender in almost three decades.

The Montreal-based lender said Friday its profit fell by 79 per cent to $8.9 million, and its provisions for credit losses — the amount of money the bank is setting aside to cover loans that may go bad — soared to $54.9 million. That’s up from $9 million in the same period a year ago.

COVID-19 is throwing uncertainty to the bank’s outlook, so it cut its dividend to 40 cents a share as a precaution. Previously it was 67 cents a share.

“We have a strong capital and liquidity position, and disciplined risk management, but it is a time for prudence,” CEO François Desjardins said. “Although we believe that current earnings are not reflective of the future earnings power of the organisation, we have reduced the dividend to $0.40 per share which improves operational flexibility until we reap the anticipated benefits of our strategic plan.”

The last time a major Canadian bank slashed its dividend was 1992, when National Bank cut the payout to its shareholders.


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Published By Magen Johnson

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