Rumors of the death of working from the office are much exaggerated. And that’s good news for the commercial real estate sector.
Despite much talk to the contrary, work from home (WFH) will not become the norm even when the current lockdowns end. There are multiple reasons, but the first is that in reality, your boss probably doesn’t trust you.
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That’s not to say that all bosses think that their employees won’t work if they aren’t in the office. Instead, the truth is that most managers have spent a lifetime assuming that “working from home” is synonymous with doing nothing. While employees know that such thoughts aren’t always valid, we are talking about an ingrained belief for some executives.
“Employers don’t feel they have enough control,” writes Peter Tchir, Head of Macro Strategy at Academy Securities in a recent report. Put another way, it’s not enough for you to do the work, they want to watch you also.
Work From Home Cybersecurity Risk
Tchir points out some other problems, but the major one is cybersecurity. He explains it like so:
- “It seems that a major cyber attack is more a question about when than if, and that could be a serious deterrent to work from home as a permanent solution.”
No company wants to see their company hacked, especially when it could be easily avoidable with all employees using office-based company equipment that is protected by a robust firewall.
Employee Burnout Problems
The third thing that I know from experience is that WFH can easily lead to burnout. Long before the Covid-19 lockdowns, I mostly worked from home even while working for a major U.S. corporation.
That good news is that I was highly productive because I didn’t have many interruptions, and I certainly didn’t have to attend ad hoc meetings.
The downside was that it was never clear when work should end each day. That meant I worked far longer hours than I would have by simply being in the office.
We are now hearing about burnout as a significant problem during the lockdown. Those who still have jobs and can work from home are dealing with multiple stresses.
- They are taking on increased workloads as they watch colleagues get fired.
- Many are trapped at home with their family with all the distractions involved.
- Government and media messaging have much of the population terrified. Ultimately, many people will come out of this crisis, psychically drained.
Still, most employers will likely want workers back in the office. But getting them back there won’t be the same as it was in the past. Open-plan offices, and hot-desking will likely go the way of the Telex Machine (a precursor to the fax) as they will be seen as a health hazard enhancing the spread of viruses.
More Office Space Will Be Needed
Instead, companies will need more office space with increased use of individual offices and likely in more locations. By having multiple offices, a company that experiences a viral outbreak of Covid-19 will have an easier time containing the problem and be more able to continue business through the other offices.
What that means is that owning commercial office space will be a good business as the economy restarts. Which specific companies will benefit remains to be seen. But two major players include Vornado Realty Trust VNO and Boston Properties, Inc. BXP .