Harry states that companies are forcing people back into the office through fear of bank write-downs on property. This would feed through to balance sheets and might have a series of domino effects, potentially resulting in the thing that public companies fear most - a drop in share price.
I’m sure that’s true in some cases.
There’s a wave of “let’s get back to normal” all across the world. I suspect this is a pure reaction - the snap of the elastic band. We all want C19 to be consigned to history. Whether the virus got the memo, remains to be seen.
However, my feeling is that the ship has sailed. Discounting the short term, the days of the huge office HQ are numbered. They were before Covid, and the pandemic has accelerated the process. Companies may try to impose policies on workforces for a while, but only while those companies work out how best to harness working from home more permanently. They’ll want those massive savings for their bottom-line.
The ramifications of this are going to be huge, and varied, for knowledge workers. We’re already a privileged subset, and for many, the ability to work from home is a boon. I work from home, and love getting all the laundry done without breaking stride. I have sufficient space to work comfortably, and enough seniority to switch off and become uncontactable when I choose. I enjoy my own company, and thrive working solo. Not everyone is like that. I have friends who are rushing back to the office. Not because they need the physical space, but because they value the separation between home and work, and thrive in a collegiate, cooperative environment. Is that a factor of character and personality, or simply habit? What will these people do as offices disappear?
What will happen to our cities? I hope that we will see more residential development in our city centres. Could the City of London became a mixed-use space? Certainly, the sandwich shops and fast food joints that serve the corporates are scared. Those that have survived the lockdowns are still not seeing a return to the business they need to pay the bills. Our cities are going to change, hopefully for the better.
As for Apple - I daresay they’ll work out what to do with their glass palace. They’re no longer the plucky upstart, rather the giant with a target on its back. Perhaps Harry is right, and Tim Cook’s empire will fall to a tsunami of pyjama-wearing start-ups.
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