COVID and the future of the Office
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  1. #1
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    COVID and the future of the Office

    There has been a number of articles talking about how the current virtual work environment forced by COVID would effect the workspace in the future. At my company that is happening sooner rather than later. They are dramatically reducing office footprint and looking at the possibility that most people won't have a permanent desk. The assumption is that people would work from home and in person work would be limited. I guess some people might like this but as an oldie I think that co-location helps productivity, sense of ownership, and team camaraderie. I was hoping to return to the office full-time once COVID is over but that may not be an option. This may very well speed up my retirement

  2. #2
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    We were meeting in person (socially distanced, masked) but the recent spike in cases means we’re 100% virtual again likely until February.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Opus51569 View Post
    We were meeting in person (socially distanced, masked) but the recent spike in cases means we’re 100% virtual again likely until February.


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    Initially my team tried to make virtual work. Now we come in a couple of times a week to meet for specific topics (big room, masks, seated apart). There is 100% agreement that virtual is less productive. This is an engineering environment where there is a lot of collaboration. Other jobs may work better virtually. With the number of new cases matching what we had here in NJ back in April, they may clamp down on meetings

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    My company is physically downsizing my office but not in response to COVID. Someone at the head of our 20k employee firm finally realized it makes no sense to pay the overhead of an office that once held 8 staff but is now down to 2 (others retired or left to work for themselves years ago).

    We're moving next door to a space that our landlord had intended to expand into but is no longer considering as more of their office-based staff are working from home.

    My company was dragging their feet assuming commercial rents would drop as more people moved to home-based work but our lease is up next month and, for some reason, management wants to maintain a physical presence in this town -without actually supporting the office with things like more staff.

    I'm divided on home vs office. I've largely lacked a sense of team camaraderie or mentorship for almost 10 years - the result of being in a "satellite office" so working from home would be very much the same as being in my office. The problem is my house isn't set up to work from and I really don't want to dedicate the space needed to do that correctly.

    I have friends that were in the middle of renovating their office to fit more people and to use an "open concept" when the shut down happened. They don't know WTF to do know.

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    I work in the social service field, which historically has been 100% in person, we couldn't even do telehealth if we wanted because contracts wouldn't allow it.

    With COVID ... it moved to 100% telehealth at the beginning and now is probably 60/40 split between telehealth and in person. Though, as things get worse, we move more towards telehealth.

    In the future ... I don't see telehealth going away. Productivity increased for about half our staff by moving online, and a lot of clients enjoy it more than in person because they can do it from anywhere and don't have to travel to our offices.

    With that said, some of the work we do can't be completed over the phone or internet: Case Management, Skills Training, Job Development, Housing support, etc. has to take place almost exclusively in person.

    I foresee our future to be about 60% telehealth for Outpatient level clients, then moving more in person for SPMI level clients the higher the level of care.

    I've been doing 50% office, 50% home since it all started ... but will likely move back to 100% office when this is all over. Though, if given the option, will probably continue a 50/50 or 40/60 split.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by dir-t View Post
    My company is physically downsizing my office but not in response to COVID. Someone at the head of our 20k employee firm finally realized it makes no sense to pay the overhead of an office that once held 8 staff but is now down to 2 (others retired or left to work for themselves years ago).

    We're moving next door to a space that our landlord had intended to expand into but is no longer considering as more of their office-based staff are working from home.

    My company was dragging their feet assuming commercial rents would drop as more people moved to home-based work but our lease is up next month and, for some reason, management wants to maintain a physical presence in this town -without actually supporting the office with things like more staff.

    I'm divided on home vs office. I've largely lacked a sense of team camaraderie or mentorship for almost 10 years - the result of being in a "satellite office" so working from home would be very much the same as being in my office. The problem is my house isn't set up to work from and I really don't want to dedicate the space needed to do that correctly.

    I have friends that were in the middle of renovating their office to fit more people and to use an "open concept" when the shut down happened. They don't know WTF to do know.
    I think this may impact tech industries the hardest. Why pay Software Engineers top dollar to move to the high-price Bay area when they could telecommute from Boise? There may be differing salary structures depending on where you actually live

  7. #7
    pmf
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    As much as I like having the extra two hours a day I normally spend commuting to and from work, I'd like this to end. I managed to make the best of the commute by riding my bike which I can pull off 3-4 days a week. Less in the winter. Having the office (my dining room) 8 feet from the kitchen doesn't help. It's an effort to ride as much when working at home. Getting to work is a great motivator to get my @ss on the bike at 7:30 AM.

    The virtual learning my kids are doing isn't working out very well. One of them has trouble concentrating on a computer screen all day. And they're both in high school. It's supposed to be one of the best school systems in the country, and they're failing miserably at long distance learning. I really pity anyone going through this with little kids.

    Most of the friends I have are from work, or people I met doing kid stuff (baseball, Cub Scouts). I met my wife at work. I think this move towards working at home is going to make the world a pretty lonely place.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveG View Post
    I think this may impact tech industries the hardest. Why pay Software Engineers top dollar to move to the high-price Bay area when they could telecommute from Boise? There may be differing salary structures depending on where you actually live
    For jobs I'm applying to, data analyst work....the funniest/most-annoying ones are 'Remote, domiciled at_____'. Which I can sort of understand, they want someone who can come into the office at a pinch for a presentation etc.....but it by definition isn't remote if you have to be domiciled at a hard location.

    Many workplaces are discovering they no longer need to pay rent and can work pretty darn effectively via remote teleconference. Inertia stopped it happening sooner--COVID merely made bean counters realize how much money they were wasting requiring people to drive to work at an office building....when everyone could save gas and they not have to pay office rent.
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  9. #9
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    We've got a double whammy where I work. I've been here since 1990 and we've been bought multiple times, now part of a big fortune 500 company. Our location has been part operations/factory and part engineering R&D for that whole time.

    I started working from home in March as our company was good about covid safety. But sadly in June they announced that they were closing the factory at our location and would move the R&D location to somewhere still in the area. So we're looking for a smaller location nearby, we do have the need for lab space so we can't go 100% remote but being a software engineer I may end up working the majority of my time remotely from now on.

    I'm tired of it. It's hard to get away from work when it's right there. And the lack of real human interaction is getting to me. I'm not one with a lot of friends outside of work so it's getting a bit lonely. But at this point I expect best case will be spring before we go back to working in an office in some capacity.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by pmf View Post
    As much as I like having the extra two hours a day I normally spend commuting to and from work, I'd like this to end. I managed to make the best of the commute by riding my bike which I can pull off 3-4 days a week. Less in the winter. Having the office (my dining room) 8 feet from the kitchen doesn't help. It's an effort to ride as much when working at home. Getting to work is a great motivator to get my @ss on the bike at 7:30 AM.
    Good point about the effect on cycling. At work there is a definitive schedule. I'm here, or I'm not. At home, I feel I should be more flexible in my availability, but then that eats into time for myself to do other things like riding.
    Given his penchant for nicknames, and his aversion to reading, I've decided to shorten Donald J. Trump to it's essence: Dump*

    I was "social distancing" before it was cool.

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    pmf
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    Quote Originally Posted by VaughnA View Post
    It's hard to get away from work when it's right there. And the lack of real human interaction is getting to me. I'm not one with a lot of friends outside of work so it's getting a bit lonely. But at this point I expect best case will be spring before we go back to working in an office in some capacity.
    Definitely another drawback. Before this, I never was allowed to work at home, so I never did and it never really bothered me. The office was work, home was home. Now there's no office and home isn't all home anymore. I find myself looking at my computer on nights and weekends. I feel like I can't escape it. There's more of an expectation that I'm available 24/7.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Opus51569 View Post
    Good point about the effect on cycling. At work there is a definitive schedule. I'm here, or I'm not. At home, I feel I should be more flexible in my availability, but then that eats into time for myself to do other things like riding.
    Working from home has had an upside on cycling, at least in the fall. Normally, my riding is limited once it gets dark after work. I have gotten much more weekday riding (albeit short rides) in September, October, November than ever before. Still, I would trade that to go back to work

  13. #13
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    The change is going to hurt those cities that collect income tax from people who work in them. It's also going to hurt landlords and commercial construction companies since there is now a glut of office space across the country. .Lots of vacant retail space as well will contribute. The retail will come back eventually probably, the office space may be a loss ongoing though. I see lots of signs up where we live for office and retail spaces available.

    Zero impact on me directly being retired, but it does make the roads less congested which is great for cycling!
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveG View Post
    I think this may impact tech industries the hardest.
    Maybe but on the other hand perhaps they were already moving towards this?

    A friend of mine turned down a job with a large software firm two years ago because they wanted her to be in CA for a week or two each month whereas her current job has been 100% remote. Her opinion was that they were remarkably behind the times compared to other similar employers. My guess is that firm doesn't have too many people coming to the office right now.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Srode View Post
    The change is going to hurt those cities that collect income tax from people who work in them. It's also going to hurt landlords and commercial construction companies since there is now a glut of office space across the country. .Lots of vacant retail space as well will contribute. The retail will come back eventually probably, the office space may be a loss ongoing though. I see lots of signs up where we live for office and retail spaces available.

    Zero impact on me directly being retired, but it does make the roads less congested which is great for cycling!
    The USA is in for a drastic economic 'correction'. This will be a part of it. Downtown real estate is just one of many things insanely priced to start with.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Srode View Post
    The change is going to hurt those cities that collect income tax from people who work in them. It's also going to hurt landlords and commercial construction companies since there is now a glut of office space across the country. .Lots of vacant retail space as well will contribute. The retail will come back eventually probably, the office space may be a loss ongoing though. I see lots of signs up where we live for office and retail spaces available.

    Zero impact on me directly being retired, but it does make the roads less congested which is great for cycling!
    Agree. Cities and states with high taxes will lose out. Companies with many virtual workers will consider relocating to a place with the lowest taxes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marc View Post
    The USA is in for a drastic economic 'correction'. This will be a part of it. Downtown real estate is just one of many things insanely priced to start with.
    In a way, it will mirror the way the internet affected brick and mortar retail. Why rent a store when you can have a virtual marketplace? Why rent an office when your workers can telecommute?
    Given his penchant for nicknames, and his aversion to reading, I've decided to shorten Donald J. Trump to it's essence: Dump*

    I was "social distancing" before it was cool.

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    The way I see it, the next generation or 2, if we make it that far (not as ridiculous as you might think) is that there is going to be a big drop in productivity & continuity in all businesses.
    I'm an engineer and basically, most of the 'engineering' I have done was OJT interaction with other workers, seniors, lower level, users, builders, etc. is going to be severly reduced and it is going to be difficult to do the things that we do when we all are working from home. You can't learn what to do if your not exposed to what it is your doing.
    Some jobs/career's may not be so critical, but at a lot of jobs, you learn the job @ the job. You don't bring the skillset with you from home, you learn it at the job.
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  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveG View Post
    Agree. Cities and states with high taxes will lose out. Companies with many virtual workers will consider relocating to a place with the lowest taxes.
    Like Texas. That’s why Austin is well on its way to becoming the new Silicon Valley.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Opus51569 View Post
    In a way, it will mirror the way the internet affected brick and mortar retail. Why rent a store when you can have a virtual marketplace? Why rent an office when your workers can telecommute?
    Yeah, but does my employer offer to pay some of my mortgage now that my wife and I are providing free office space for them in my house? I went out and bought an office chair after sitting on an uncomfortable dining room table chair for a couple months.

    And being an old fart, I can tell you that the virtual world isn't necessarily better. If I buy clothes, I like to try them on. If I buy shoes, I like to try them on. If I buy a mattress, I like to lie down on it in a store. How may of us buy a bike, sight unseen, off the internet?

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    Quote Originally Posted by pmf View Post
    Yeah, but does my employer offer to pay some of my mortgage now that my wife and I are providing free office space for them in my house? I went out and bought an office chair after sitting on an uncomfortable dining room table chair for a couple months.
    there may be some tax deductions you can benefit from for home office space. It can be tricky what qualifies so you need to research that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Srode View Post
    there may be some tax deductions you can benefit from for home office space. It can be tricky what qualifies so you need to research that.

    There's what qualifies...but there's also whether to itemize or not; most people don't. And given recent changes to itemizing thresholds that number is lower than ever. Even before the 2019 changes, it wasn't a majority or filers.


    Deducting things is nice...for the small minority of people whom it makes sense to itemize.
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  23. #23
    pmf
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    Quote Originally Posted by Srode View Post
    there may be some tax deductions you can benefit from for home office space. It can be tricky what qualifies so you need to research that.
    That mostly applies to self employed people. I think a Federal Govt employee would have a hard time trying to get a tax deduction for working at home. And in the DC area, nothing is cheap. My mortgage is almost $3k.

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    The elephant in the corner of the room

    2020 has been lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lock downs. Social life was disrupted. Economies still are in tailspin. And gloomy discussions over the future of the office.

    But one country has a much different story. It has emerged unscathed, despite being surrounded by hotspots. That country is Taiwan. Taiwan's last locally transmitted case came on April 12th. Over two hundred days have passed, with zero cases of local transmission.

    Taiwan's strategy has been science-based and simple. Trace, test and quarantine. No lockdown. It's the strategy that has made it the world leader, in pandemic response.

    https://www.wionews.com/world/heres-...andemic-338858
    I am 100% convinced the internet and social media are not the salvation to human civility.


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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by DaveG View Post
    Agree. Cities and states with high taxes will lose out. Companies with many virtual workers will consider relocating to a place with the lowest taxes.
    It's already happening. People and companies are evacuating California in droves.

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