Shopify to keep offices closed until 2021 as firm shifts to permanent remote-work mode

Shopify HQ
Shopify's headquarters are at 150 Elgin St. in downtown Ottawa. OBJ file photo

Shopify's chief executive says the company's offices will remain closed until 2021, and that most employees will permanently work remotely.

Tobi Lutke made the announcement about the Ottawa-based e-commerce giant on Twitter on Wednesday morning –​ coincidentally, the fifth anniversary of the day the company went public on the New York Stock Exchange. Lutke tweeted that Shopify is a "digital company" by default, adding "office centricity is over."

Lutke allowed Shopify's more than 5,000 employees to work from home months ago when COVID-19 started sweeping Canada.

Shopify's decision to go fully remote could have major implications for the Ottawa real estate scene.

The e-commerce giant employs more than 850 people at its corporate headquarters at 150 Elgin St., where it occupies in excess of 100,000 square feet of office space. In 2017, Shopify also signed a long-term lease to occupy up to 18 floors covering 325,000 square feet in the former Export Development Canada building at nearby 234 Laurier Ave. At the time, the company said it was planning to use the extra space to house up to 2,500 additional employees.

Shopify also recently started beefing up its real estate with a new office in Toronto at the King and Portland Centre, steps away from the company's first office in Canada's largest city.

It also announced that it would lease about 23,597 square metres (253,995 square feet) of space at The Well complex in Toronto to be built at Front St. West and Spadina Ave.

In January, the company said it would open its first permanent office in downtown Vancouver at the Four Bentall Centre by late 2020.

– With files from OBJ staff