The office monsters are trying to come back in 2019

“I try to fill office buildings, and I say to JPMorgan, Goldman Sachs, I say to all of them, ‘Look, I need your people back in their jobs so we can build the ecosystem,'” said Mayor Eric. Adams of New York said this week. The city, which relies heavily on tax revenue from huge offices in Midtown, recently announced a strict in-person work policy for city employees.

“How does it feel like city workers are home while I’m telling everyone it’s time to get back to work?” Mr. Adams added. “City workers should be leading the charge to say, ‘New York can be back.'”

Beyond the basics, the back-to-office debate is about what kind of culture will prevail as the business world emerges from the pandemic. And for all the power wielded by Mr. Musk, Mr. Dimon and Mr. Adams, they can fight a bigger change than any company or city.

If the more than two years of experimenting with pandemic remote work has taught us anything, it’s that many people can be productive outside of the office, and a number are happier doing so. This is especially true for people with young children or long commutes, minority workers who have a harder time adjusting to standard office culture, or those who have other personal circumstances that have made the job in offices less attractive.

“We are still struggling to let go of the stereotype of the ideal worker – even though that person, for many people, professions and demographic groups in the United States, never really existed,” said Colleen Ammerman, director of Gender Initiative at Harvard. Business school. “I think with remote work and hybrid we have the potential to really move away from that and really rethink what it means to be on the leadership path, what it means to be high performers and to move away from this while being associated with being in the office at all hours.

Even though the pandemic has changed course, there are signs that the work-from-home trend is accelerating. A recent survey published in the National Bureau of Economic Research found that employers now say they will allow employees to work from home an average of 2.3 days a week, up from 1.5 days in summer 2020.

It’s not just the office, it’s also the commute. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that nearly all major cities with the biggest declines in office occupancy during the pandemic had an average one-way commute of more than 30 minutes; and most towns with the smallest drops had shorter routes.

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