The New Office –
Will companies find that working from home is as effective as being on-site? In 2013, Marissa Mayer took over as CEO of Yahoo! and sent everyone in the company out to work from home. After 6 months she ended the experiment, saying,
“To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration
will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that
we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway
and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings.
Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.
That starts with physically being together. Thus, her experiment ended and it was ‘back to the cubicles!’
So, the debate will begin to rage over whether you can establish and maintain corporate culture when people are not in the same location. My experience as a company commander in the Marines, and in business is that face-to-face collaboration is essential to cohesion in a company. Communicating values, priorities, hopes and fears can be done only half-way through instant messaging or texting or email or telephone calls or zoom. Sure, it cuts down on commuting time, which, supposedly can then be used for work. MmmHmm. It allows folks to live in less expensive areas, then, say, downtown San Francisco. San Antonio is actually a key spot for relocating Californians. But I hear the stories, too, about all of the distractions at home from kids, dogs, and your favorite mid-day TV shows, naps, etc. There is a saying in romantic relationships that Long Distance Relationships Never Work. Will that be the story for telecommuting, too? I think we will be entering a “trial period,” a scientific social experiment over the next year or two. Some may only come to the office a few days a week. Or bosses may stagger work hours. But, the people who see the boss every day, who know what he/she is thinking and where the company is going will get the promotion rather than those who rarely show up. They will be just a little more out of touch, and when you are trying to run and grow a business in a tough industry in a tough environment, that may be the edge that determines success or failure.
“Opportunities multiply as they are seized”
But then this may also stimulate the Gig Economy, that is, where independent contractors and freelancers work for many different bosses, doing specific defined tasks and projects. They are not employees, no health insurance, retirement benefits or expensive office space. They can be flexible setting their own hours, days and weeks they want to work and to take off and play. They live by their wits and are the quintessential entrepreneurs. They can work from home, Starbucks, WeWork, Geekdom, or wherever. They get their jobs off the internet, bidding against similar workers all over the world. This trend is well-established and will be greatly expanded now in the Days of Covid.
Retail? You’re kidding! Today’s headlines read: Simon Property Group Sues Gap for Unpaid Rent; Luby’s to Sell Millions of Dollars of Assets As It Puts Itself Up For Sale; AMC Theaters Teeters on Bankruptcy; So does J.C. Penny’s.; Kimco Raises a Fund for Opportunistic Buys; Coronavirus Slams the Brakes on CRE Price Growth; and so on. The Retail Apocalypse just went from really bad to really worse. But like a Phoenix, shopping will arise from the ashes. Casual clothes will be the norm. Who will need a suit and tie anymore? We’re going back to the basics, plain and simple will be the new theme for everything… that’s not really so bad, is it?