Trickle back to office will have 'profound impact' on quality of downtown areas
“It’s gonna kill them.”
James Bailey, professor and Hochberg fellow of leadership development, George Washington University, is talking about downtown businesses after the pandemic if people continue to work from home.
“Not returning to the office is going to have a profound impact on the quality and the liveliness and the culture of the downtown areas in major metropolitan cities,” he says.
Even if 75 per cent of people go back to working the office permanently, the 25-per-cent reduction in foot traffic will be enough to kill businesses and leave people without work, he says.
“Let's think about the clothing shops and the jewelry shops and the bodegas in the corner, those little restaurants. They’re going to close. There's going to be boards and gates all over those places.
“Now, all those people that did go downtown are not going to stay downtown to have lunch — they're going to bring their own lunch. They're not going to stay downtown to have a couple of drinks with friends afterwards, because the bars are shut.”
Almost one in four remote workers admit to slacking off while working at home, according to a previous survey.
But people staying home will hurt those who are already in the lowest level of socio-economic status, says Bailey.
“The person who loses their job is going to be the already lowest socio-economic worker. The one that gets hurt is the one that can't afford to get hurt. And so that's particularly sad, because the guy who worked at the bodega, the lady behind the counter at the sandwich shop, they're the ones that are going to lose their job and they didn't have much money to start with.”
Thirty per cent of employers in the four countries say their top business goal for the next 12 months is “survival,” finds Peninsula.
Bailey also claims that there is “innate laziness” among people who do not want to come back to the office, and younger workers are the least keen to return.
“Generation X is desperate to get back to the office. They just know that that's where they get their best work done. And they also know that that's where all the promotions happen. That's where the raises happen. Because those are based on relationships. And you can't form real relationships via Zoom.”
But employers can make changes to entice them back. One is to make the workplace presentable, make the office “a nice place,” says Bailey.
“The stairways that oftentimes are just painted in gray concrete, paint them blue. So for people that are going to the stairways, there’s now this pleasant environment. Change the desks that people are using so they're not those ugly square aluminum kind of desks, [so] maybe they're round and small and wood and reflect very well the light that's available.”
Employers can also install game rooms, gyms, childcare facilities or a food station with fruits and snacks that’s open and free.
“All these things that make it a more pleasant place to be, so people would enjoy being there,” he says.
Just 11 per cent of gen Z workers report being pleased with the way their office is currently set up, according to a previous report.
Also, employers should focus on their managers, says Bailey.
“If you've got toxic managers around, you're going to have to move them out. Because people are more marketable today than they have been. And so if they're not happy at your place… they're going to move to another organization if their boss is a jerk.
“So you need to ride really hard on those supervisors and those managers to make sure that they're not managing and running things in that old time-y way of authority, and bullying and pushing and things like that.”
While the top factor that contributes to job satisfaction is good leadership (61 per cent), roughly 75 per cent of employees are frustrated with their managers, according to a previous report.