Windows locked, restaurants locked, all office towers empty. Ten months after the spread of the Covid-19 epidemic that turned famous business centers in New York into ghost cities, companies are questioning how to get their employees back to their offices.
“Hospitality Holdings,” said Kenneth Maclore, vice president of Hospitality Holdings, whose Midtown restaurant is usually packed with businessmen who come to discuss financial deals at lunch. Or he had a glass at the end of work, in a press statement: “If they don’t return, we will drown.”
His group closed six restaurants and bars in Manhattan; Finally two of them, indicating the threat hanging over these neighborhoods, which were a symbol of American economic vitality, and a model for New York; Like yellow cabs or Broadway theaters.
“The customers that we used to see three, four or five times a week have simply disappeared” since last March, when New York faced the first wave of the epidemic, and more than 26,000 people have died from the virus in the US economic capital so far.
According to “Castle Systems”, a company that specializes in office security, only 14 percent of the more than one million New Yorkers employed were working from their offices in mid-January; Threatening the fate of so many snack suppliers and convenience stores in Midtown or Wall Street.
Fellowship and creativity
But with the arrival of vaccines against Covid-19, companies are looking for ways to encourage their employees to return.
About 80% of employees surveyed saw their views in a study published this month by the company, “PricewaterCoopers”; Telework is a good thing; But 87% thought their office was important for working as a team and for building relationships, which are aspects of work in which video communication is less effective.
Jessica Lapin says during an interview from her office at the Association for Downtown New York City, which she chairs: “Being in the office, seeing colleagues and leaving the house, puts me in a good mood all week.”
But few employees want to return to work from Monday to Friday, from morning to evening, as was the case before the pandemic.
“A large majority say they prefer a hybrid system, with two or three days working from home, and two or three days from the office,” says Denise Caglar, who contributed to the PwC study.
Specialists in this sector consider that companies will have to change the concept of workplaces, and not be anymore just a place to sit in front of a computer screen or make phone calls, as was the case in the past, but rather encourage friendships between colleagues and creativity.
This means improving décor and creating larger meeting rooms, balconies, places outside for chatting, and offices that can be shared according to working hours.
“The workplace should be like a theater, with different decor for different scenes,” says David Smith, author of a study on the future of workplaces for “Cushman & Wakefield”, one of the giant companies in commercial real estate.
And offices in the future may include gymnasiums, cafes, places to wash clothes or other services that make coming to the office “worthwhile”, thus accelerating the trend that began before the epidemic.
A new future
Although their employees are currently working mainly remotely, some large companies have acquired large office space since the beginning of the epidemic, which leads to the belief that they are still betting on this method of work in the future despite the current uncertainty caused by the epidemic.
In August, Facebook signed a lease agreement for offices of 68,000 square meters in Midtown, while Google confirmed that it intends to expand its “headquarters” in the Chelsea neighborhood.
Greenberg Trawraig, a law firm that employs 400 people in New York, is preparing to move its offices in 2021 to a new office tower in the center of Midtown, its vice president Robert Evanho said.
The company has previously installed installations such as non-touch faucets with sterile dispensers, offices that take into account social distancing and an improved ventilation system for its employees who are currently working under a rotation system, he added.
In early January, a new passenger hall was opened at the Benn station for trains, in which millions of people had crossed before the epidemic, and it was inaugurated by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo after works costing $ 1.6 billion, in evidence of the hopes of local officials to revive amid City.
Some see in the current period an opportunity that encourages rethinking these neighborhoods to make them more environmentally friendly with the addition of green spaces to the neighborhoods, while eating in outdoor restaurant patios – which was very rare in New York before the epidemic – is expected to become permanent.
“It is clearly an opportunity for everyone to think of a new future,” said Alfred Sirolo, head of the Grand Central Partnership business group in Midtown.