Big tech companies like Google and Meta have been sending out a hailstorm of pink slips. Many who still have jobs have gotten used to the new lifestyle that the pandemic ushered in that allowed them to work from the comfort of their homes. But the pressure is mounting on them as more and more companies demand that their workforce return to the office. Forbes calls it “an ongoing battle” between workers and employers.
The Partnership for New York City, a business industry trade group, surveyed more than 160 major Manhattan office employers between August 29 and September 12, 2022 to take the pulse of how many employees returned to the office or are still working remotely.
Results indicate that 49% of Manhattan office workers are currently at the workplace on an average weekday—up from 38% in April. However, those that are back in the office may be going in only once a week. Under 10% of employees are in the office five days a week. That’s a surprisingly low number compared to pre-pandemic normal.
Regardless of what employers want, many surveys over the last year or so show that employees adamantly responded that “they would rather quit than commute back to an office”, according to Forbes. People have reorganized their priorities and now want a better work-life balance. “They appreciate the autonomy and freedom that comes with the flexibility of choice.”
Mark Dixon, CEO of flexible office company IWG, told CNBC, “There’s this assumption that people like commuting into a central business district…They don’t.” They say it’s “a complete waste of time and money and they don’t want to do it”.
Starbucks’ corporate employees have recently pushed back against the company’s return-to-office policy, which requires working at least three days per week from the office. Amazon employees are divided on the company’s mandate, which will also require employees to go to the office at least three days a week starting in May.
Dixon, who founded his flexible office company in 1989, told CNBC that he believes this resistance to return-to-office policies will create a “shock” for the commercial real estate industry as well, thereby impacting the economy overall.
Major tech companies are reevaluating the costs of their office spaces. Amazon, for example, has done just that. After laying off thousands of workers earlier this year, the tech company has paused construction on its second headquarters in Virginia.
Google and Meta, which have both conducted layoffs over the past few months, have recently downsized their office footprints in cost-cutting measures. In February, Google asked some of its employees to share desks, leaving some office buildings empty. Meta decided against renewing its leases on two New York office buildings last year.
Dixon looks into his crystal ball and sees a radical new way of working: he envisions offices working like “a network of petrol stations,” affording workers the opportunity to work from anywhere.
Dixon’s company IWG is already making this vision a reality, they have over 3,300 offices spanning over 120 countries, according to IWG’s website.
“[You can] drive anywhere in the country,” Dixon said. “Work will be like that. You will find places to work everywhere, we network them all together and make them easy to use”–sort of like stopping in to any Mobil station, anywhere, and filling up your tank.
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