About 4 in 5 Manhattan Office Workers Won’t Return to Their Workplace Full Time: Study

More than a year since COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic — forcing employees throughout the world out of their offices and into working from home to curb the virus' spread  —  new research shows remote work may become the new normal for Manhattan's one million office workers. 

A few weeks ago, The Partnership for New York City surveyed the island's largest employers about their return-to-work plans. 

About 66% of companies said they will adopt a hybrid model in the coming months, which would see employees commute to the office some days and work from home for the rest of the week, while 22% said they will require employees to return to the office full-time. 

Only 10% of the city's office employees have returned to their workplaces since March. Respondents anticipated that less than half of employees (45%) would resume in-person work by September. 

Of the different industries represented in the survey — including finance, insurance, technology and media — results found the real estate industry has been "the most aggressive" about bringing its employees back, as more than half (52%) are working in the office and 82% are expected to return by September. 

As COVID-19 cases decline and vaccinations are on the rise, companies throughout the country are wrestling with a number of factors in deciding when and how to re-open offices: the cost of commercial real estate, the safety of public transportation and the advantages of remote work, among other considerations. 

The Wall Street Journal recently interviewed more than 20 of the country's top executives about their thoughts on the post-COVID future of work. Some expected their employees wouldn't feel safe returning to the office until 2022, while others shared they have already offered employees the choice to work from home permanently. 

Many, however, expressed a fervent hope that companies will resume in-person work or adopt a hybrid model in the near future. 

Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co., told the Journal that he sees "huge weaknesses" to working mainly over Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. 

"Most of us learn by an apprenticeship system, by seeing mistakes, going [on] trips, how to handle a client, how do you handle the problem," he said. "It's hard to inculcate culture and character and all those things … it's very hard to build and develop a deeper relationship on Zoom."

Dimon predicted that there would be "a large portion" of people who choose to permanently work in the office. 

Still, as David Henshall, the CEO of Citrix Systems Inc. said, a return to the workplace will not mean an immediate return to "normal" pre-pandemic work routines in the coming months. 

"I mean,  you're going to the office, you're still going to be subject to personal protective equipment, to social distancing, to discussions about mandatory vaccination or not, travel restrictions," Henshall told the Wall Street Journal. "All of these things will keep the office environment, the good parts of the office environment, still somewhere out of reach for a period of time."

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