The combination of the Pandemic and better communication tools has changed the way Americans view office work, as has been covered in the media for the last two years. By the time companies decided they wanted their employees to show up at work in-person, it looked like workers had the upper hand and weren’t going to be drawn back to their commute so easily.
More than half of workers who have jobs that they can complete from home would like to continue working from home, according to a February survey. When it is limited to those who are currently working from home at least most of the time, 80% want to continue doing so.
In the tech-centered Bay Area, employers are in an uphill battle trying to convince people to come back to work. In early 2021, 42% of executives thought their workers would be back in the office five days a week, according to a survey by the firm. The number is now 20%.
According to the New York Times this week, employers are starting to realize they may not be getting what they want.
There are fewer and fewer companies that want their employees to be in the office for five days a week. Some of the major companies that said they wanted their employees in the office five days a week are starting to change their minds.
Apple’s employees have been particularly cranky about the company’s return-to-office directives and companies like McKinsey have had to be more flexible with their plans in order not to lose employees.
When an individual works from home, it has a domino effect. When people go to work at an office, they can either go to a restaurant nearby to eat lunch or stop by a bar to have a drink with friends. They don’t spend that money in the place where they work if they don’t work in the office.
The result has had a massive effect on the economy of business districts, especially in places like downtown San Francisco, with economists predicting that workers won’t be returning to their offices there more than half the time in the future According to a report from the city Controller’s Office, office work accounts for nearly 70% of San Francisco’s gross domestic product. With people spending less time in bars, restaurants, shops, and even on public transit, the city and its small businesses are struggling.
In the 2029-2030 fiscal year, BART isn’t expecting to recover from a deficit that occurred during the Pandemic.
The loss of activity in a whole neighborhood of the city is a consequence of struggling businesses. Tourists will not be interested in visiting there if there are too many closed shops.
In the long run, coworking spaces could prove helpful. As more people work from home and as more of us get sick of it, flexible office spaces may benefit, though that probably only applies to people who live far from their companies’ headquarters.
According to the Chronicle, there is 14 million square feet more vacant office space downtown than there was before the recession, and that could take a long time.
Christian is on Unsplash.