Is this the death of the office?
The wider tech community has been arguing, for some time, that the physical corporate office is outdated and outmoded and that the Coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis signals its final death knell. And yet the great tech giants of silicon-valley have invested heavily in campus style offices, which have every facility from creches to coffee in one place.
The argument is that home or remote working technology is now ubiquitous and inexpensive. Those workers that were not aware of its great advantages and its ability to lower corporate office costs surely now are, even if the experience has been ‘enforced’ by Covid-19.
Here we have had a culture that supports and encourages homeworking for decades in our various businesses- it is a culture that is very supportive of women with small children, for example. However, even our team likes a mixture of both office and home environments. Staff from other companies who have been working from home are noticing the difference, particularly the loss of resources they became used to on campus or at the corporate office.
In our view, the outcome is much more likely to be a compromise, rather than the death of the office. If anything, Covid-19 will underline the advantages that working from a corporate office brings and there are plenty of functions, even white-collar ones such as social media monitoring, that simply cannot be achieved at home because of regulations and the nature of the tasks.
In addition, the large mega-cap tech corporates are not cutting their investment in smart state-of-the-art campuses – rather they are, anecdotally at least, increasing that investment. Such tech goliaths are not taking the view offices are outdate or outmoded.
However, what Covid-19 will hopefully achieve is to put an end to the argument that proposes that childcare and its need for flexibility makes mothers and fathers inefficient employees or that shuns job sharing or employing people with impairments who need to be able to work from home. In other words, employer flexibility may become the normal mindset rather than the exception.
We believe the most likely outcome is less commuting, and less time in the corporate office, but the time that is spent there will be valued more highly by employees – perhaps this will manifest itself in greater productivity for developed economy workforces? Greater productivity should, in the end, lead to higher corporate valuations.