Richter LLP employees who commute to work from the West Island and Laval are breathing a sigh of relief with the announcement that the accounting and consulting firm is opening two satellite offices in March.
The remote offices will mitigate stress for employees worried about the expected increase in commute time when the Mount Royal tunnel closes, March 30.
The satellite offices in Pointe-Claire and Laval will be up and running, March 16.
“That gives us a chance to settle any logistics that need to be tinkered with,” Richter partner Tanya Greenidge said.
The century-old Mount Royal tunnel is used by around 18,000 commuters who take the Deux-Montagnes and Mascouches trains to get to work. The tunnel is closing for two years to undergo extensive modifications to make it compatible with the Réseau express métropolitain (REM) light-rail network which will connect the western part of the island with the airport, downtown and the South shore. The tunnel closure was pushed from Jan. 6 to Mar. 30 to allow more time to fine tune alternative transit plans. Initial options announced in late 2019 involved a mix of shuttle buses, trains and Metro lines and extended commutes by up to one hour.
As early as last summer, Richter began to look at ways to ease the impact of the tunnel closure on employees.
“We wanted to be proactive,” Greenidge said. “We formed a committee, determined how many employees would be affected and polled (staff) in Sept. and Oct. for input – for solutions.”
Of the 400 employees at the downtown Richter office, 30 per cent live in the West Island and Laval. Of that 30 per cent, the majority are West Islanders.
The work by the Richter committee and input from staff culminated with the decision to set up remote offices with additional IT equipment designed to facilitate working at a distance.
Richter associate Vyshak Sukumaran lives in Pierrefonds and plans to use the remote office. His commute by train usually takes between 45 and 60 minutes. He calculated the tunnel closure would add another 40 minutes to the commute. He said having access to a remote office “puts my mind at ease. I know I have an option close to home.”
Even if the first-year associate chooses to drive to work every day, the rider will be slower, with highways handling increased vehicular traffic caused by commuters who don’t want to spend two hours a day on buses, shuttles and Metros.
Richter’s satellite “offices” are actually leased footage at shared-work-space facilities.
“We will have designated work stations with docks, phones and monitors and have access to a conference room,” Greenidge said.
Is it costly?
“It was well worth it,” Greenidge said. “What we can’t afford is to lose a team member. Hiring in this market? Now that’s costly.”
The remote offices will be open to all Richter employees, not just suburban dwellers. If a partner comes to the West Island to meet a client, for example, the meeting can take place at the leased space.
Sukumaran doesn’t have children, which means he doesn’t have to juggle work, the commute and family responsibilities, but he said the satellite office will contribute to maintaining a work/life balance and help him get to his after-work hockey practices on time.
“Richter really kept us in the loop and took into consideration what (staff) said.” he said.