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JRTRealty: What to expect when returning to the office in Manhattan

June 16, 2020 |

The new “abnormal;” that’s what we can expect. Something distinctly different in our office experience. So, if you’re wondering how this will all play out when you return to the office, here’s what you may find:

First, you’ll need to find a comfortable pathway to the office, which means you’ll need to grapple with the subway/bus/train/bike commute to work. When you arrive at your building, you’ll likely find your office lobby converted to what looks like a plexiglass enclosed ATM machine. You will see signage mandating that you wear a face mask and a fair number of Purell dispensers sprinkled along your path to the elevator cabs. Outside the elevators in the lobby floor, there will be signage to point out where you can stand so that you adhere to the 6-foot social distancing mandate. Assuming your building elevators can accommodate another passenger or two, allowing for the 6-foot rule, you will be delivered to your office floor. Once inside your office, depending on the occupancy level of staff, you might see directional signs on the floor that are put in place to minimize contact with your fellow workers. Again, you will be instructed to wear a face mask when walking around the office, but you can thankfully remove your mask at your socially distanced desk. Some desk areas may have newly installed plexiglass dividers, some offices may have even removed a line of desks to accommodate social distancing.

And who do you think is most eager to get back to the office? It’s not who you might expect. The largest segment of the work force are millennials, and for this age group, especially, work is a social networking opportunity. As indicated in recent surveys, millennials represent the largest section of the workforce and are the most eager to return to the office. Millennials are striving to climb the corporate ladder and the connections and mentors they connect with serve as a key ingredient of in-office dynamics. Many millennials in urban dwellings are succumbed to cramped apartments and shared WiFi service amongst competing roommates, making the peace and relative quiet of the office a sanctuary of sorts. Conversely, older workers have more comfortable home-life surroundings and this segment of the workforce is the least interested in returning to the office environment, surprisingly.

Remote working, while it allows for a flexibility that was unprecedented pre-COVID-19, now serves as a viable way to stay productive – at least part of the time. Oddly, I think that working remotely can be more intensely demanding than working in-office because remote working is non-stop, flooded with back-to-back zoom calls and meetings. There are no coffee breaks, no chatting casually with co-workers in the kitchen areas, which serve as a mental break during normal conditions. Instead, workers are finding themselves jumping from call-to-call without the normal travel-time breaks between meetings. Many of us are exhausted from working at the current pace and are looking forward to the old normal of in-office work.

The next few weeks and months will bring a new phase as we all return to work, experimenting with the flexibility of the newly found remote working. We’ll experience this new abnormal together as we get back to a more settled environment. We’ve been through 9/11 and the 2008 recession, and we will get through COVID-19 with the same tenacity. We need to stay the course and move ahead.


Compliments of JRT Realty – a member of the EACCNY.