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Will working from home be the new normal?


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There are a few things I've found working from home the past two months. I was less productive when I did WFH and everyone was in office pre-Covid. But I'm more productive now that everyone is working from home. I think the difference is that WFH employees were usually second thoughts when everyone was in office..so managers would not call you, meetings often had no conference line to call, people would not be at their desk so you  had a hard time reaching people. But now that everyone is WFH you have the opposite effect...everyone is reachable easily.

 

Its interesting to see how this will play out. I work at a bank and its pretty obvious they will save huge amounts of money on office space if all their employees worked from home. They recently spend millions training and outfitting "ecosystems" where there is no assigned desks and you just sit anywhere...I asked the person working on this why they were willing to spend so much money and it basically came down to huge savings on real estate since there would be less desks than people.

 

But WFH renders this idea really stupid....why even bother with an office?

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Well I think this comes down to a few things.

 

Do you have young kids or not?

 

Bosses are usually insecure and want to keep an eye on their employees.

 

Employees will be lazy as well. If you think an IB analyst and law associates will put the same slave work in from home you are delusional.

 

A lot of the real estate is not just to house employees. I'm thinking about law firms here.

 

How long before a bunch of companies get hacked because some idiot's smart fridge and a $40 router?

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I totally agree. Ive been quite perplexed, at least in REIT land, why office is not thought of as worse positioned for the future than retail. Even now, going out, you see that people love to get out, especially when the weather is nice. Go shopping. Get food and a drink. Be active. The other day I was leaving a newly built shopping center, and not only was the place packed, but even stuff like Jersey Mike's which neither serves drinks nor even has great sandwiches, had people everywhere. I would never look to run a retail business, but being the landlord is like operating a carousel. In decent areas, especially for dining establishments, there's never any shortage of people willing to set up a business. I still think tier 1 locations are gold. A class C mall? good luck. But a well maintained center next to high density/affluent residential and office? Good money. Maybe even great money.

 

Now for office, you have an environment where few actually want to be there. Managers need productivity, and if they can get the same from home or outer space, most will. Especially if you can improve your bottom line by cutting costs. For a high percentage of businesses, everyone sitting in a centralized location is not needed. Of course, theres good areas here too. Critically important systems or defense contractors will always need the security of a central home office. But those are rare.

 

Bottom line, no one says "I cant wait to go to the office". Its a whole unnecessary expense for most businesses that outside of a write off and maybe some deductions, will continue to be phased out.

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I find this "work from home forever" concept to be an all out assault on the precious way of life of the high achieving finance/law/tech bro trying to get laid and paid in the pulsating masses of human flesh and concrete that are our great american cities.

 

is the era of the city as a glorious playground of the young and moneyed (or simply wannabe moneyed) over?

 

#savethefinancebros

 

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I find this "work from home forever" concept to be an all out assault on the precious way of life of the high achieving finance/law/tech bro trying to get laid and paid in the pulsating mass of human flesh and concrete that are our great american cities.

 

is the era of the city as a glorious playground of the young and moneyed (or simply wannabe moneyed) over?

 

#savethefinancebros

 

Although some employees thrive at home most employees are just not as productive on their own in their homes as in the office.

 

I heard this from a cousin yesterday who is a very prominent architect in Toronto. He has 20 architects working for him. The last 2 months have been a disaster. The quality of work has suffered, costs soared due to work needing to be done over and deadlines missed. He has now installed plexiglass dividers between the workstations at the office and is moving from all staff working from home to a rotation of half from home and half working in the office. This is his experience and with a group of highly trained professionals. I have heard many stories similar to this. Employees have not been as productive from their homes and they had been previously been. There are many possible explanations for this however the reasons don't matter. Staff needs to be in the office in most cases in order to produce work at any reasonable level of quality.

 

Recent comment by the CEO on the Brookfield Property Q1 call... they have been getting calls from most of their major tenants looking for more space...not less. These existing tenants will need to spread out their employees due to social distancing thus require more rental space and not less. This will reverse a trend that has been in place for the last 20 years.

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I find this "work from home forever" concept to be an all out assault on the precious way of life of the high achieving finance/law/tech bro trying to get laid and paid in the pulsating masses of human flesh and concrete that are our great american cities.

 

is the era of the city as a glorious playground of the young and moneyed (or simply wannabe moneyed) over?

 

#savethefinancebros

Here Here Brother!

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I find this "work from home forever" concept to be an all out assault on the precious way of life of the high achieving finance/law/tech bro trying to get laid and paid in the pulsating masses of human flesh and concrete that are our great american cities.

 

is the era of the city as a glorious playground of the young and moneyed (or simply wannabe moneyed) over?

 

#savethefinancebros

 

 

I think you have hit the nail on the head.  In a typical organisation, how do you get promoted?  Do you get promoted by doing good work, or do you get promoted because the bosses like you?  Certainly doing good work doesn't hurt and doing bad work is a real problem for you.  But, my observation is that the promotions go to those who have superior ass-kissing people skills and who have also done decent work.  The people skills don't do much for you when you are working remotely.  The bosses will always work out of the office, and the "climbers" with social skills will always find a reason to work out of the office too.  The guy who puts in a great 8 hours per day of work, but is not a social climber is the best candidate for remote work...but being unseen is really not a good thing for your career. 

 

Like it or not, we are social animals!

 

 

SJ

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I also think much of the need for office space frivolously comes down to egos. I spent a short period of time working in the city. I wouldn't ever underestimate the importance of the corner office or the tall ceiling office with a view of the Hudson. Its probably also underestimated the ease with which corporate expenses can be justified from the top down. Maybe with a privately owned shop, ala Bloomberg, your owner/boss doesnt want you wasting their money because its his, but with most big corporations, especially publicly owned ones, its just so damn easy to spend, spend, spend because it doesnt come out of your pocket and just about everyone involved in the decision making chain can find a way to reap a benefit out of those spent dollars. Then again, this can also easily be reconciled as necessary in the name of attracting talent. So who knows.

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You guys dislike the office that much? I worked at investment management firm and commuted into a downtown office. It was great.

 

I hated working from home. The small laptop even with extra monitor was still not enough screen real estate. Everything is slower too when I had to go through Citrix. Distractions everywhere.  It was agonizing.  Even on the weekend, I rather drive 30-45 minutes to get to the office than to do extra work on my laptop.

 

I was in 20s and early 30s when I was working there so maybe I'll feel differently once I'm married or become  older.

 

I think the future is more of a hybrid style, more WFH days per week but not all WFH forever.

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I am obviously #teamoffice. Recognizing not everyone is a bond trader, I can’t imagine my experience working as a trader for a big bank from home. Now at 31/married/with established network and significantly decreased social energy, sure, I can do what I do from home for a couple days a week. But it would be very tough to do a day of meetings face to face without being able to go to NYC and meet a bunch of people on one day.

 

- You can’t get hazed / learn how to fill orders without getting coffee and lunches for the whole desk in a home office

-you can’t watch and learn how your MD handles various relationships on Zoom

- you can’t walk a few blocks to a steakhouse and entertain clients, then walk a few more blocks to meet your college friends for dinner then take a cab to the late night bar / club

- you can’t go grab drinks with a sales guy/gal that you butt heads with or grab drinks with your fellow analyst or meet up with the VP who went your school and wants to give you some mentorship, or catch a glimpse of Jamie Dimon walking the halls or

- you can’t hit on other interns/analysts from a home office

- and you can’t trade bonds from a 2 bedroom that you have converted to a 3 bedroom to accomomadate your investment banker and equity research guy roommates.

 

These all seem trivial, but they are life for a young Wall Street type and I’m sure many other professions. Not to mention the entire ecosystem of bartenders, baristas, shoe shine glguys, seamless delivery people, caterers, restaurants, security, cleaners, front desk people, dry cleaners, Uber drivers,Whose jobs depend on people going to the office.

 

Oh and property taxes. What percent of muni budgets are from office buildings?

 

 

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Guest cherzeca

"I think the future is more of a hybrid style, more WFH days per week but not all WFH forever."

 

agree.  and it makes sense. people will still want to meet/greet/discuss/negotiate in person (and hopefully shake hands at some point), because zoom is good for some things but not others, but who wants to commute if you dont have to?

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incentive to be productive WFH when there's 20% unemployment is much higher than when WFH when unemployment is 5%.

 

 

Wasn't it IBM that a year or two ago forced all their WFH people to commute back into an office or they were fired? That's why I laugh at companies like Twitter saying you can WFH 'forever'.

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Guest cherzeca

there are a lot of  lower paid office workers who must be in the office to make office function smoothly.  you may see a class distinction where high income workers have a choice and low income workers have to show up

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incentive to be productive WFH when there's 20% unemployment is much higher than when WFH when unemployment is 5%.

 

This tends to be my thinking, too.  Behavioural patterns are different for the moment but I expect they'll return to usual in time.

 

I wonder to what extent companies will discover through this WFH experience that many of their office jobs could be readily outsourced, or are actually redundant in the first place.   

 

 

 

 

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I think training/supervision will be the main stumbling block. That has been less of an issue during coronavirus because companies have been able to lay off or furlough staff most in need of training or supervision to be productive. And similar to a war effort the staff that are left are willing to pick up the slack without too much complaint (in part because massive unemployment makes them feel lucky to still have a job).

 

A lot of people slack off a good deal at work already. But having other colleagues and managers around creates social pressure that curbs this tendency to some extent. Remote monitoring is unlikely to be as effective and productivity is not always easy to measure. And especially when people start out they like some hand holding until they build confidence and competence and that is less effective remotely...in the same way you can't parent remotely.

 

Also I am not sure WFH all the time is psychologically healthy. It is a pain commuting to the office but it gives some work-life separation. You can leave your life problems at home and your work problems in the office (to some extent). I agree it is difficult to create a good working environment at home-not everyone has the luxury of a home study. And while some workplaces are toxic generally people like the social support that comes from working around people and feeling like part of a team. And especially in creative industries it helps having people around to bounce ideas off.

 

WFH might also create downward pressure on wages because if someone is working remotely they can be from anywhere in the world and the trend of outsourcing back office type jobs to low wage developing countries might accelerate. But even within a country as WFH allows workers to drive down living expenses by not having to live in big cities with expensive rents employers could take advantage and offer lower salaries.

 

 

 

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Hey all:

 

Every few days I get contacted by legal recruiters looking for attorneys to work on WFM or remote work projects.  You have to be able to provide certain equipment (not difficult) and then you can from your home or office.  Pay rates are actually going UP, generally speaking.  The rate of pay has been as high as $28/hour!

 

One thing that me wonder....is how remote working would actually work out.  When I've worked on these projects, being able to ask questions of your co-workers was critical for me.  It was also important in the first couple of days to ask others on the project, "what are you seeing", "how are you responding to this or that", and it was important to form group cohesiveness.  It was also important to talk to other workers and get input on odd/difficult questions that would crop up later on.

 

Even if you can "Zoom" with other workers on the same project (not clear), I think remote work will be generally much lower quality than having all the workers in a central location. 

 

At this point in time, lower quality work may be better than no work at all for the client?

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Everybody putting the 2021 budget together, will be looking very closely at WFH.

The overhead savings are compelling. The reduction in break-even volume in sync with post-Covid-19 requirements.

 

The rent budget will be driven by functionality, centralization requirement, and cost. Applied differently, according to industry need.

WFH/Office mix during the week. Decentralized 'back-office' in various rent-a-space locations, centralized 'middle-office coordination' in Grade B space, and sales in centralized satellite Grade-A space. Less total space, less Grade-A space, and more Grade-B - distributed over a wide area. Employees get the commuting time/cost savings as a no-cost, tax-free raise. Over time, some of the 'middle-office coordination' moving into converted warehouse space.

 

Conventional wisdom was 'put everyone in a centralized box, and own the box'. Keep utilization >85% to benefit from the operating leverage, & fill the space with as many bodies as possible. Everybody using the same high-value space, regardless of functional need, or the opportunity cost of sub-leasing the space to others. The smarter folks captured the 'rent spread'; by moving the 'back-office' into Grade-B space, and sub-leasing the now vacant Grade-A space. But it wasn't 'main-stream'. Different thing today.

 

Of course it means change, and there will be 'objections'; but for most, it will be 3-4 months to 'adjust', &/or a severance package to remove the toxic drip. The variety of alternative work 'options' available, reducing the payout. Assuming it's primarily the older work force that leaves; salary (top vs bottom of pay grade) and insurance (younger average workforce) savings, will finance much of the severance. Lower drug, eye-care, dental, pension, and life insurance premiums add up quickly.

 

If you think the Covid-19 'recovery' will be quick; maybe it really is just status quo, with minor adjustments.

But if you think that 'recovery' might take a while .....

 

Example: Air Canada plans to cut 50-60% (20,000) of its workforce by June-07.

16,500 of whom are currently on the federal wage subsidy that runs out June-07. Since extended through Aug-31

https://www.cbc.ca/news/business/air-canada-layoffs-1.5572596

 

SD

 

 

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"I think the future is more of a hybrid style, more WFH days per week but not all WFH forever."

 

agree.  and it makes sense. people will still want to meet/greet/discuss/negotiate in person (and hopefully shake hands at some point), because zoom is good for some things but not others, but who wants to commute if you dont have to?

 

That’s my thinking too. How effective the WFH work style depends heavily on the work force and the nature of the work. When you have a cohesive team they is used to work together, working from home may work quite well. If you have a lot of newer people that need coaching and training and high turnover workforce then it is probably not going to well.

 

In either case, I can see a lot of benefits of meeting and working together in a centralized location from time to time. Personally, I could do 75% of my work well from home , but the remainder would be bit more iffy and at least less efficient.

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I find it challenging to manage employees while working at home.  Some work as hard as ever, others I'm not so sure about.  I could see their being mixed mode, some work at office and some remote but I wouldn't want all remote.

 

I really doubt that people will work as hard when given the freedom of working from home.

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I know of software tech company that has been working hybrid distributed WFH for 5+ years now. And when I say "hybrid" it's fully that. Some teams are mostly located in single office. Some teams distributed across US, some distributed across US, Europe, Asia. Some people work in office, some people work part time from office part time from home, some people work from home all the time. Some managers work from office, some managers work from remote office, some managers work from home. People who work from home (and from remote locations) get promoted pretty high in organization - let's say one level below CTO. Yeah, I also thought that working from home is career suicide for management track - not there though. Are there issues? Yes, there are. Though the issues are mostly because of distributed teams, not because of someone working from home. Would the company do better if everyone was in one location? Sure. Would they be able to hire the same quality people in single location? Very unlikely.

 

Covid lockdown has very limited impact: just a bit more of distribution and WFH. How will things go after covid? Likely similar as they were before covid. If I had to guess, things won't change since some amount of physical co-location is beneficial. But likely people who were remote and worked from home will still do it. And people who came to the offices, will likely do that too. Maybe some will shift to work more from home. Probably not significant percentage.

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Speaking on behalf of the company I work for, it was recently announced that all employees (can) work from home for the remainder of 2020.  Those who want to be in the office can beginning sometime in late June.  I think the two biggest issues (long term) are:

 

1. Type of work you do

2. How productive you/team are while WFH

3. Management's ability to change with the times.

 

Speaking personally, I would only entertain going in the office more than once a week if it came with a pay bump of some sort.  But there's no reason for the company to offer that. 

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