The explosion of remote work caused by the coronavirus pandemic threatens the future of the world’s large business centers, led by New York, where a significant proportion of workers are expected never to return to offices. and there are companies that are choosing to reduce or abandon their spaces.
One year after the start of the pandemic, only one 10% of Manhattan office employees have returned to their regular jobs, according to a survey published this month by The Partnership for New York City, a coalition that brings together many of the big city-based businesses.
The companies surveyed predict that for September -when most of the citizens will be fully vaccinated- has returned to the office around a 45% of staff.
Meanwhile, large New York employers expect slightly more than half of their workforce to continue working remotely in the future, at least for part of their day.
Many large companies are betting on this remote work revolution, or at least accepting it, so they are already taking steps to adapt.
It is the case of JPMorgan Chase, the largest bank in the United States and employing more than 20,000 people. Although it has not been officially confirmed, according to The New York Times the entity foresees implement a rotation model in which employees sometimes work in the office and sometimes remotely.
JPMorgan Chase, in fact, has put on the market a space of about 65,000 square meters that it rents in the financial district of lower Manhattan, the largest space offered in sublease in the entire city.
And it is not the only one, since according to The Wall Street Journal other companies like Salesforce O PricewaterhouseCoopers They are also trying to set up offices that they have rented.
Leaving these spaces is not always easy, since rental contracts are usually for ten or more years, but the trend is already being noticed very clearly in the stock of offices -with a 80% increase in spaces available for sublease in the financial district – and in prices, which have fallen in double digits nationwide.
In total, there are more than 9 million square meters of office space on the market, an increase of 37% over last year and larger than all the Los Angeles, Atlanta and Dallas offices combined, according to The New York Times.
Consequences for all
The decline of the office as the center of New York economic activity will not only affect the urban landscape of Manhattan, but poses a serious threat to the future of the city as a whole.
Municipal coffers, already badly hit by the pandemic, may lose up to $ 2.5 billion in property tax revenue in the next fiscal year, one of the great financing channels of the New York City Council and that depends to a large extent on commercial real estate.
This is indicated by the estimates of the municipal authorities, which they want to prevent that from becoming a reality by promoting the return to the offices.
To set an example, the mayor of the city, Bill de Blasio, has decreed that All City Council employees will return to their posts as of May 3, in a measure that will directly affect some 80,000 people who have been working from their homes since the pandemic broke out.
According to De Blasio, it is a “Powerful message” on the reopening of the Big Apple and its “full recovery”.
“Companies are seeing that it is time to return”, the mayor explained at a press conference, highlighting the progress in vaccinations against the COVID-19 disease as a key element.
Rethink the city
Meanwhile, many see in this crisis a opportunity to rethink the city and end some of the problems that have been weighing it down for a long timeWhether it’s the concentration of jobs in areas like Midtown Manhattan, skyrocketing housing prices, poor transportation services, or the excessive role of the car in urban planning.
The pandemic has been a “reminder that the city is not the Midtown of Manhattan, it is the residential neighborhoods and that is what matters”, explained on Thursday in a colloquium organized by the Manhattan Institute the professor of the University of Columbia Rohit Aggarwala.
Alain Bertaud |, a researcher at the Marron Institute of New York University, pointed to the positive effect that a reduction of the space dedicated to offices and its conversion into housing can have, helping to lower prices and bringing a new generation to areas of the city that are now not affordable for young people.
Transportation can also be among the beneficiariesaccording to Aggarwala, who believes that the transition to a model in which a majority of employees will not go to the office every day will allow us to respond to the problem of road congestion and overflow seen on the subway during rush hour.
The era of remote work, said the specialized journalist Henry Burn, it can even be a advantage for New York and attracting to the city many people who have always dreamed of living in the Big Apple.
“The fundamental package of services, quality of life, living without a car … the things that New York offers that no other American city offers remain unique,” he said.
(With information from EFE)