Almost exactly a year ago, Syntronic Canada was celebrating its fifth anniversary in Ottawa, with grand plans for future growth as it approached 300 employees.
In mid-2019, the Canadian arm of the Sweden-based tech design house was in the midst of a rapid expansion of its Kanata R&D hub. The firm was bringing new talent on board at a steady clip and had taken over more than 50,000 square feet of real estate at two locations in the Kanata tech park, space that could accommodate up to 500 workers.
Today, the Canadian arm of the Sweden-based tech design house is scaling back those lofty expectations. The company is in the process of shedding space at both Kanata locations as it braces for what senior vice-president Darrell Wellington predicts will be a “tough” stretch ahead.
“We were in a period of growth, and we kind of set up our real estate for that purpose,” says Wellington, Syntronic’s first Canadian hire when it established its R&D facility in Kanata in 2014.
Like many other companies, Syntronic Canada has had to dramatically reboot its short-term revenue and hiring projections in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The firm, which designs and tests hardware and software for a wide variety of clients in the telecom, automotive, industrial, defence and medical sectors, has seen many projects in its pipeline put on hold as its customers look to rein in spending and delay new R&D initiatives while they weather the economic downturn.
“It’ll set us back probably a year,” says Wellington, adding the firm is likely to freeze new hiring for at least the next 12-24 months while it figures out what the post-pandemic world might look like.
As a result, Syntronic Canada expects to sublease more than 17,000 square feet of space on two floors at its main R&D complex at 340 Terry Fox Dr. as well as another 3,000 square feet at its other office at nearby 555 Legget Dr.
The company has about four-and-a-half years left on its leases at both properties. Wellington says Syntronic will probably try to sublet the space for the full duration of the term on Legget Drive, while it’s still mulling its options for the two half-floors it’s looking to rent out on Terry Fox Drive.
“If somebody wanted to sublet it for the whole period, I would probably do that,” Wellington says.
Designated an essential service due to its work in the telecom and medical sectors, the company has kept its offices open during the lockdown. About 30 employees – many of whom need access to sophisticated testing equipment that can only be found at the office – are currently working at its Terry Fox Drive facility.
Meanwhile, the company has already begun preparing for more workers to return to the office. Syntronic’s open-concept layout has been redesigned to ensure desks are at least two metres apart, while the amount of seating in common areas such as kitchens has been reduced.
Wellington says he expects about half of the firm’s staff will continue to work remotely through the fall and into next year, while employees with a higher risk of infection will be permitted to stay away indefinitely.
“If they can do their job from home, they will be allowed to do that,” he says.