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TossYourJacket

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One thing that gets constantly forgotten in the "Everyone is going to work from home forever" discussion is that some people don't have space at home for a home office, or don't want to spend all day working in the same tiny bachelor apartment (or their bedroom if they share a multi-bedroom apartment) where they sleep. The idea that everyone just has space to set up a separate work area in their house is pretty disconnected from reality. I worked from my apartment bedroom for a about a year and a half and it got exhausting being in the same room constantly, and it really screwed up my sleep as I'd wake up thinking about work all the time, since my desk was literally next to my bed cus that's the only place it could go. WFH has some big perks, but a lot of the downsides for people who can't just segregate it in a separate room from the rest of their home life seem to have been forgotten.

Certainly I think we'll see people WFH more than before, but it seems like most people want to spend at least a couple days a week in the office. Now, how that translates into the design of office spaces going forward is something for people with more expertise than me. I'd guess that office spaces would be more focused on collaborative spaces than just endless rows of closely crammed-together desks though.
 

crumplescotch

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Agree to disagree. The grand COVID WFH experiment has proven what companies like Basecamp, Zapier, have been advocating for the last few years: a digital first, hybrid environment works and can actually help attract and retain talent. Regardless of COVID employees will be allowed, if they want, to work remotely permanently. Maybe it'll be 60%, maybe 75%, but the days of having your entire team (or 95% of your employees) in one physical location are over. This disruption has been accelerated by COVID, but has been made possible by better collaboration tools (Asana, Slack, Zoom). Tech companies have found that remote can help with: retention, diversification of talent pool, as well as employee satisfaction. I work for a mid-sized tech company and we, and many of our peers, competitors, and partners, are all thinking about the future of our offices in VERY different ways. e.g. we're planning on doubling our staff over the next 12 mo - we haven't spoken about doubling or even increasing our floor plate.

As for the large tech companies (Facebook, Google, Amazon) they are indeed building and buying more office space, but similar to Shopify, are they acquiring more office in concert to their employee growth? Take Shopify as an example: they are indeed moving in to The Well - but given that their headcount has increased by 25% ever year for the last 4 years, are they growing their space by 25-50%?

Right now Shopify has 700,000 square feet committed across 4 Ottawa and Toronto offices (Laurier, Elgin, King and Spadina). When their Well office opens in 2022, they will have 750,000 square feet across both cities which is an increase of 50k square feet (altho they have an OPTION for more space that they haven't full exercised). That's NOT a significant increase of square footage given their growth.
I have to say I'm all for WFH model, not against it, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to prove anything here. In my personal experience that hybrid model is a given, I haven't actually heard of any big/medium tech company, anything with substantial tech division really, where 95% of staff is required to be present in the office at all times. I assumed that every other major company was already operating in that way - around 10-25% of staff WFH on permanent basis and others WFH at least couple of days a week. It's not just startups or tech companies, I saw this type of work model in the financial sector, banks and accounting firms. The only place that I know where physical presence is required at all times is stock exchange, the people on the trading floor have to be there.

All I'm trying to say is that these trends hasn't changed since like 2013 or so, nothing is going to drastically change post-COVID despite the headlines of these articles. So just like five years ago they weren't exactly expanding their offices in the proportion of their growth, they aren't going to start doing so now. I mean, look at Amazon, it's like the biggest tech company out there with almost unprecedented growth and they only decided to meaningfully increase their production office space like a couple of years ago with HQ 2 decision (which they didn't follow up on, by the way, they just opened a couple of smaller offices and slightly expanded in other locations like in Toronto).

All of that doesn't mean that downtown full of office towers as we know it is going away - that is not the case, most of the employees would still have to show up from time to time every week and that requires office space. In my opinion, commercial real estate is in exact same spot it was three years ago and things probably won't change much and investors know it.
 

concrete_and_light

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I love love love being alone and previously found going into the office on a routine schedule and working in the distracting office environment extremely challenging, however the full WFH setup for me is also not working out perfectly either — from both a work perspective and from the perspective of my health. I hope a hybrid setup where offices exist and employers trust and allow employees to use their judgement in order to determine their own personal optimal remote vs. office working balance becomes the new norm.
 

Bjays92

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^ Well said. And if things play out this way, there eventually could even be a "social distancing" impact - larger (more?) floor space requirements.
I have to agree with this. From all the murmurings I've heard (my father is an SVP at manulife, who just recently underwent a massive consolidation of their offices in KW) it seems like there is actually going to be a need for more office space.

Even with less employees coming in, rows of tiny unassigned desks simply wont work. We are definitely heading towards a hybrid working structure, but large areas, particularly for meetings, as well as individual office spaces will make a return and overall I think MOST companies will need more GFA not less.
 

thrillho

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I thought I'd chime in here as I've been researching and obsessed over this topic since the beginning of covid. I have been reading every article possible, analyzing job postings, & speaking with many people in the industry. Here are my major findings:

From job postings within Toronto, what I gathered is that 8 out of 10 postings do not reference working from home and include the location as Toronto, with the location of their office. I'd say 1/10 mention a hybrid approach, as in we have an office in Toronto, but you can choose the work style that works best for you, or they state that employees are required to come in 2-4x per week. The other 1/10 is a position that would have likely been in an office in Toronto, that companies are now opening up to any location (typically within Canada, but some worldwide).


The other most relevant information I found on the topic comes from a McKinsey report where they surveyed 800 executives from across the world (the people who will actually be making these decisions). Here is the full report: https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-i...tives-envision-for-the-postpandemic-workforce

And an excerpt from that report: "Across all sectors, 15 percent of executives surveyed amid the pandemic said at least one-tenth of their employees could work remotely two or more days a week going forward, almost double the 8 percent of respondents who expressed that intention before COVID-19"

Think about that. At first when you hear double the amount of people WFH it sounds like a lot. But read it again. This is coming directly from the CEOs. Only 15% of executives said that more than 10% of their staff will work from home more than two days a week after the pandemic is over. That means 85% of executives will go exactly back to how things were before. And even of the 15% that are remote friendly, the majority of their staff will still be in the office on most days.

Finally, I've attached a couple screenshots. One was shared by a commercial RE broker in Manhattan (the place with the some of the highest commercial rents in the world). Companies like Facebook, Apple, Refinitiv , TikTok have all purchased more commercial RE in Manhattan during the pandemic. I know that Google and Amazon have as well (both in Toronto and NYC). Here is a link to Google's new proposal commercial RE development in King East in Toronto: https://urbantoronto.ca/news/2020/10/googles-next-downtown-toronto-tower-rising-65-king-east

Another CBRE report, the other screenshot, shows that 40% of tech companies are actually looking to expand their commercial RE footprint. 53% are keeping the same space, and only 7% are looking for less space. And these tech companies are the ones most capable of adopting a WFH policy.

So what is my conclusion? WFH is here to stay, but it won't be anything like what most people are imagining. And it will be very similar to pre-pandemic. All the major banks, insurance companies and consulting firms already had some degree of hotelling, and were planning their office space under the assumption that the average person would be in the office 3.5-4 days per week.

Smaller companies are experimenting with lowering costs and having a more distributed workforce, but these will be for less collaborative positions (customer support, admin, etc). In other words, companies are OUTSOURCING more positions. And guess what? These people will likely be working out of places like Mumbai and Manila, you guessed it, in OFFICES.

The fact alone that Facebook, Google, Amazon, Micrsoft and Apple have expanded their commercial real estate during the pandemic should tell you something. The reality is that the history of companies adapting a full WFH policy has been full of failure : https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/29/technology/working-from-home-failure.html

IBM, Aetna, Best Buy, Bank of America, Yahoo, AT&T and Reddit all had WFH policies in the past that failed and they sent people back to offices. The main conclusion was that the impact on the company culture was too great to outweigh the cost savings, and it gave employees too much freedom. Yes, no one wants to say it, but employers want to see you in your chair working. Executives said that productivity suffered big time, especially on Mondays and Fridays, where people slept in and every weekend became a 3-day weekend. Telecommuting has been around since the 1970s, with IBM being one of the highest profile experiments. As far back as 1989 people were predicting the death of the office. IBM eventually sent almost all their staff back to offices.


TLDR:

WFH means more outsourced white collar jobs. It does not mean you get to avoid your commute every day. Office space will be just as relevant post-pandemic. People and companies who go into the office more regularly will have a competitive advantage (see Facebook, Amazon, Google, & Apple, to name a few, all expanding their commercial RE footprint). Broadly speaking, WFH experiments in the past have all failed. Zoom will not change that. About twice as many people worldwide will work from home in some capacity post-pandemic, but that number is a lot smaller than you think. 90%+ of people currently WFH will spend the majority of their work days in the office in two years time. Book it.
 

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Undead

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^Regressive corporate culture, like I said in another thread.

Most office work can easily be done at least in part from home without wasting everyone's time and money commuting. You do realize simply being at your desk in the office, or even being busy, doesn't mean you're productive or that your work is worthwhile?

In fact, when I was applying for work in September, I interviewed at a large Canadian ed tech company and their recruiter told me that moving to a fully remote model increased their productivity. Several companies said they were considering moving to a blended model post pandemic. However, the vast majority were simply unclear as to their plans which casts doubts on your job posting research (thank you for taking the time to do that and sharing your findings. It's not my intention to diminish your efforts btw). Job postings merely leaving out the possibility of remote work doesn't say much to me. Certainly they exclude other relevant factors like the amount of toxicity and generalized senselessness at work LOL

On that note, I strongly recommend David Graeber's book "Bullshit Jobs" in which he suggests that a significant chunk of modern jobs are either outright pointless or at least with a low signal to noise ratio. Certainly this has been my experience at various jobs and the lived experiences of my friends and family members.

Managers just don't want to give up the illusory "control" over employees sitting in their desks. Plus it's easier to give bull**** "perks" like unlimited complementary coffee and beanbag chairs than offer meaningful workplace improvements.

And the remote Mumbai tech workers illustrates our managers' obliviousness: from our perspective here in North America, the Mumbai workers are remote. What does it matter that they're in an office? And this model has been working perfectly fine for the last few years as more and more tech work has been outsourced to India. Why should it be different for our domestic employees?

I suspect any supposed failure of WFH is more likely due to incompetent management (a significant chunk of management, let's be honest). Have you seen what managers are like lol—they come with all the same human baggage as the average Joe, but also wield the power to inflict various inanities on their unfortunate employees. Hence, the various failures.

And don't get me started on corporate "culture"—meaningless fluff at best and outright toxicity at worst! It's time the amount of utter BS in the workplace was called out.
 

thrillho

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Hi Undead. While I don't disagree with everything, you are assuming that not a single employee will take advantage of working remotely. This isn't realistic. If companies find out that even 10% of their workforce is slacking, they can call everyone back. People are certainly slacking WFH at my company. People are going grocery shopping, long bike rides and baking bread during work time, where they would otherwise be working. Like the other experiments in the past, they found that it gave people too much freedom. And if you really don't like your job or your employer, maybe consider finding a new one. I enjoy going into my office, my company and the people I work with, for the most part. As do most people, surprisingly. Only 15-20% of people want to work remotely permanently, that means 80+% of people want to return to the office at least sometimes.

Also, quite frankly, people enjoy working less and added freedom. So for many a solution in the future is working less, or more flexible working hours, not necessarily not having an office. Although, you have to re-imagine what the office will look like. People shouldn't go into an office 8 hours a day to write emails. We have a better understanding now of what the office is and isn't for. If you've made it to the office, we should use that time to ask questions, collaborate, and build relationships. People not doing this in the past is the fault of the people, not necessarily the office. Another finding of failed remote work experiments is that companies found employees who were remote were not as attached to their employer, i.e. more likely to leave. That isn't good for employers either, and falls under the culture. The office will change -- it will be better than what we have now. More amenities, more collaboration, more perks, free lunch, subsidized day care, gym in the building , etc (more of a campus field), for the more progressive companies.

And the meaningless fluff you mention is young people who just graduated who want to learn, who want a mentor, who want to go for a coffee with their boss and ask questions -- to learn. People aren't learning as much at home, being isolated from their peers. You cannot schedule innovation, creativity in a zoom meeting, and socializing is not the same. If I have to deal with another virtual happy hour, I might scream.
 

malvern2

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My 2 cents. I work for a very large oil and gas company, and we are actually looking for more office space in 2021 in the GTA. Social distancing has forced us to look into just how many employees we kept cramming into a small space and shrinking floor plans. We are trying to have fewer employees on each floor and in order to accomplish this we are looking for new and larger floor plans.
 

Undead

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People are certainly slacking WFH at my company. People are going grocery shopping, long bike rides and baking bread during work time, where they would otherwise be working
A few bad apples slacking off doesn't mean we screw everyone else.

At my company, we're working OT on weekdays (sometimes late into the night) and even on weekends. And if I message my coworkers on MS Teams, I can reasonably expect a response well after 5 p.m. on most days. This has also been the case for several of my family and friends. Clearly some are working more while others slack. In other words, exactly the same as it's always been.

When I working as an office employee at a large construction company in 2019, there were people who consistently took long coffee breaks every hour. If people want to slack off, they will find a way to do it whether at the office or at home.

When was the last time anyone worked eight hours straight with no down time? Modern work is not a 1920s assembly line where every minute must be spent working. Frankly, it's inhumane to expect people to work every single second in an eight hour day. And there's some evidence suggesting people can muster at most three hours at a time of sustained concentration before needing to recharge.

Also it can be the case that there's not enough actual work to fill eight hours. The pressure I felt to look busy was very toxic on my mental health. I asked for more work multiple times and tried to get creative, but nothing changed. And when I resorted to taking long washroom breaks (because it's utterly mind numbing having nothing to do for eight hours), my manager wrote me up. I left that company after a few months. It wasn't WFH that destroyed any loyalty I had toward the company, but incompetent and rigid management. As always, people don't leave companies—they leave managers. Unfortunately, the next job was pretty much the same.

Whereas with WFH, if there's nothing to do at work, I can cook, clean, walk the dog, be with my kids and so on.

And if you really don't like your job or your employer, maybe consider finding a new one.
I've been with several different companies—large and small—thank you very much!

Also, quite frankly, people enjoy working less and added freedom.
Nothing wrong with that. And that desire has little to no impact when it comes to the majority of simple office work. Simply put, most simple work (and the vast majority of mid level office work is simple in my opinion once you get the hang of the specifics) just doesn't require much dedication to the employer (or even effort, often!) to be done to an acceptable level.

companies found employees who were remote were not as attached to their employer, i.e. more likely to leave
Not an issue in the slightest, in my opinion. Companies are not loyal to workers and will wash their hands of you without a second thought. Why should we be loyal to them? Respect is a two way street and I'm not seeing enough of it from companies. Not to mention we live in a free market economy where people are free to pursue better opportunities and create more value for everyone, including themselves.

People shouldn't go into an office 8 hours a day to write emails
Preaching to the choir! Only I find this is pretty much the case for much office work.

So for many a solution in the future is working less, or more flexible working hours, not necessarily not having an office
Agreed. I'm not saying we get rid of offices entirely. We just need to rethink how we engage with them.

And the meaningless fluff you mention is young people who just graduated who want to learn, who want a mentor, who want to go for a coffee with their boss and ask questions -- to learn. People aren't learning as much at home, being isolated from their peers. You cannot schedule innovation, creativity in a zoom meeting, and socializing is not the same. If I have to deal with another virtual happy hour, I might scream.
Sure, I get that. But that has nothing to do with being forced to sit at the office every single minute five days a week. I'm arguing for much greater flexibility in how and when we do our work. We can and must do better.

for the more progressive companies
In my opinion, other than daycare, none of that qualifies as progressive. It's fluff. Perhaps not entirely meaningless, but ultimately doesn't make up for the fact that you're forced to wake up early and endure a commute when your work tasks could be easily done from the comfort of your home. There's a very serious mental health and common sense argument here IMHO.
 
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thrillho

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A few bad apples slacking off doesn't mean we screw everyone else.

At my company, we're working OT on weekdays (sometimes late into the night) and even on weekends. And if I message my coworkers on MS Teams, I can reasonably expect a response well after 5 p.m. on most days. This has also been the case for several of my family and friends. Clearly some are working more while others slack. In other words, exactly the same as it's always been.

When I working as an office employee at a large construction company in 2019, there were people who consistently took long coffee breaks every hour. If people want to slack off, they will find a way to do it whether at the office or at home.

When was the last time anyone worked eight hours straight with no down time? Modern work is not a 1920s assembly line where every minute must be spent working. Frankly, it's inhumane to expect people to work every single second in an eight hour day. And there's some evidence suggesting people can muster at most three hours at a time of sustained concentration before needing to recharge.

Also it can be the case that there's not enough actual work to fill eight hours. The pressure I felt to look busy was very toxic on my mental health. I asked for more work multiple times and tried to get creative, but nothing changed. And when I resorted to taking long washroom breaks (because it's utterly mind numbing having nothing to do for eight hours), my manager wrote me up. I left that company after a few months. It wasn't WFH that destroyed any loyalty I had toward the company, but incompetent and rigid management. As always, people don't leave companies—they leave managers. Unfortunately, the next job was pretty much the same.

Whereas with WFH, if there's nothing to do at work, I can cook, clean, walk the dog, be with my kids and so on.



I've been with several different companies—large and small—thank you very much!



Nothing wrong with that. And that desire has little to no impact when it comes to the majority of simple office work. Simply put, most simple work (and the vast majority of mid level office work is simple in my opinion once you get the hang of the specifics) just doesn't require much dedication to the employer (or even effort, often!) to be done to an acceptable level.



Not an issue in the slightest, in my opinion. Companies are not loyal to workers and will wash their hands of you without a second thought. Why should we be loyal to them? Respect is a two way street and I'm not seeing enough of it from companies. Not to mention we live in a free market economy where people are free to pursue better opportunities and create more value for everyone, including themselves.



Preaching to the choir! Only I find this is pretty much the case for much office work.



Agreed. I'm not saying we get rid of offices entirely. We just need to rethink how we engage with them.



Sure, I get that. But that has nothing to do with being forced to sit at the office every single minute five days a week. I'm arguing for much greater flexibility in how and when we do our work. We can and must do better.



In my opinion, other than daycare, none of that qualifies as progressive. It's fluff. Perhaps not entirely meaningless, but ultimately doesn't make up for the fact that you're forced to wake up early and endure a commute when your work tasks could be easily done from the comfort of your home. There's a very serious mental health and common sense argument here IMHO.
Hi Undead. If all your tasks can be easily be done from the comfort of your own home, and if all you do is spent 8 hours a day writing emails and pretending to look busy, then imagine how easy it would be for your company to outsource that job. It may sound mean, but you have to understand that while you are trying to minimize your time commuting, spend more time cooking, cleaning, walking the dog, and being with your kids, your company is trying to maximize their profits and/or minimize costs.

I'm sure you can ask your company to work permanently from home. This will minimize your commute time. It will also maximize the chance that your job is outsourced and/or you never get promoted or grow within the company.
 

Mr.Tang

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All I can say is watch for a ton of sublease space to come to market in the next 12 months. Longer term - who knows -but a higher percentage of people WFH seems pretty safe. It has been shown to be manageable and, for some, preferable. Some business leaders will see this as way to push occupancy costs on their employees. For others the power relations b/w the company and its employees are such that an appealing office space has to be part of the package (remember the bean-bag chairs and foosball tables). Generally, for tasks where innovation and teaming are more key there will be more of a focus to get people into an office (those jobs tend to skew younger anyway and I suspect the WFH is a little less appealing).
 

Undead

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Hi Undead. If all your tasks can be easily be done from the comfort of your own home, and if all you do is spent 8 hours a day writing emails and pretending to look busy, then imagine how easy it would be for your company to outsource that job. It may sound mean, but you have to understand that while you are trying to minimize your time commuting, spend more time cooking, cleaning, walking the dog, and being with your kids, your company is trying to maximize their profits and/or minimize costs.

I'm sure you can ask your company to work permanently from home. This will minimize your commute time. It will also maximize the chance that your job is outsourced and/or you never get promoted or grow within the company.
Good point and I agree. But I don't get why we have to commute when all we're doing is emailing at the office. So we commute just to protect our jobs? That's some major league BS, pardon my language. If that's the only thing protecting my job from being outsourced, I don't want that job or that arrangement to begin with.

As for growth and promotion within a company—people have different psychological inclinations and priorities in life. Many value their free time, and being with family and friends more than slaving away at a desk. Others see their jobs as an means to an end—to pay their bills and provide for their families.

Not to mention the corporate world has changed—we no longer dedicate many years of our lives to a single company. This is a pretty outdated view of the work world. Employees are much more mobile today. I believe promotions are more likely to come with movement to a better job, not through growth inside a company. For example, every time I changed jobs, I found one with more pay (in the same field).

Of course, people can and do get promoted within the same company. But I think the situation is more nuanced and complicated than that.
 

thrillho

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You should not have to commute a long way if all you're doing is emailing people. I agree. It sounds as though you are in the small percentage of people who does not need to be in office, and who provides no value to anyone else by being there and being miserable, staring at the clock and trying to time your GO train. You just have to understand that what happened to the blue collar manufacturing/ factory jobs, will now come for the white collar worker, starting with ones doing the exact work you are describing.
 

Undead

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You should not have to commute a long way if all you're doing is emailing people. I agree. It sounds as though you are in the small percentage of people who does not need to be in office, and who provides no value to anyone else by being there and being miserable, staring at the clock and trying to time your GO train. You just have to understand that what happened to the blue collar manufacturing/ factory jobs, will now come for the white collar worker, starting with ones doing the exact work you are describing.
Savage! Yeah, I agree, although I think because my job requires a good command of written English, it won't be getting outsourced to India. But I suggest I am not in a small percentage at all. Quite the contrary. I'm convinced the majority of office workers don't need to be in the office five days. I've yet to see anything in the corporate world to suggest otherwise.

Even people who provide value in the office can be miserable and would be better working from home two-three days a week.
 
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