So, we were back in the office yesterday (officially) for the first time as a group in a year. We (unofficially) re-opened the office last May/June for the people who live close enough to the office to walk and were trapped in their WFH/lockdown apartments. It was never more than three or four people, and usually just one or two.
I’m intrigued by what the world looks like post pandemic: on the one hand you had all of these pre-existing trends that were in place remote work labor arbitrage virtual desktop sharing zoom calls FaceTime calls etc. that had really been the province of a handful of industries and consultants. But on the other hand, you have now demonstrated to a huge swath of corporate America that it is not a requirement to have all of your staff in a big expensive headquarters at once. The changes this will wreak range from mild to havoc.
Consider the rough estimate that approximately 20% of corporate office space is now excess. What does this mean to commercial real estate REIT’s and other previously believed steady investments?
Then there is the issue of expensive cities, with all of this excess commercial space potentially being converted in two if not low-cost housing and certainly more affordable housing. It’s been a seller’s market for a long time and for the first time urban residential buyers have a slide advantage with potentially hundreds of thousands of units being converted over the next few years.
I have questions:
How does this affect how companies organize themselves?
How do you maintain a corporate culture if people are only in a few times a week or month?
How do you hire, train, supervise, evaluate, promote, retain and/or fire employees?
How do you communicate your company’s objectives and methods and philosophy to your employees?
People have been discussing how technology is becoming bigger in various indices all of these various remote contingencies are completely reliant on technology ranging from hardware the software to connectivity to CRM. If you think big tech is big now just wait five years and and everything else will be dwarfed.
The fascinating thing is going to be how the nature of work is going to change what we do in offices. If you could do something alone with a computer and an internet connection why do you have to sit in a physical location surrounded by other people in the same location doing the same thing on a computer and an internet connection? Instead, what’s going to matter most for office work are things like collaboration and projects that require multiple skillsets from different departments and very different people working towards a common goal.
It’s not so much that work is going to change as much as the emphasis on what we do together as a company (or a group, team, department, etc.). The idea that you all have to sit in a the same location doing what is absolutely doable anywhere you can plug into the cloud seems quaint and dated and even a little silly. The office is where we will be doing the sorts of things that we can ONLY DO TOGETHER, including creating a corporate culture and seeing the people who we have the same professional goals and objectives.