Shopify's offices will remain closed until 2021 and the majority of employees will continue working remotely even when they reopen. Square, Spotify, Visa, Mastercard and Google are among other global firms that have indicated their personnel will work from home until at least the end of this year.
With 95% of Facebook’s 40,000 employees successfully remote working during the pandemic, Mark Zuckerberg has talked of a permanent culture shift. He estimates that as much as 50% of his workforce will work remotely over the coming five to ten years. Facebook surveys have found that more than half of employees are at least as productive from home as the office. About 40% are interested in full-time remote work.
Naturally, any such widespread shift in working patterns will have major implications for cities, central business districts and large head-quarter buildings.
The future of cities
It would be wrong to consider the future of the office in isolation. The location of choice for headquarters of major corporations has long been the global cities with their easy access to talent, infrastructure and markets.
Will the post-Covid-19 city suffer from the dislocation of these highly coveted knowledge workers and creative professionals?
The very attributes of global cities which so attract both talent and corporations seem to be turning against them. International trade and the related movement of people and goods facilitates the import of viruses. High population density helps those viruses to spread. And better health infrastructure draws people in, creating more interaction between the rural and urban populations and further aiding transmission.
It is, then, not surprising that major cities around the world have become the epicentres of this emergency, but their resilience should not be underestimated. Cities have found a way to prosper through history’s many crises, attracting an ever-larger share of the global population as they have done so. This will surely continue, driven by new technology and infrastructure, public and private investment, and with the added impetus of local and global community action. We can be hopeful that ways will be found to better combat disease, improve air quality, embed active travel and green infrastructure. In doing so, cities can address both the impending risks of climate change and the inequalities in global cities that have been laid bare by the pandemic. Much needed changes to public policy could usher in the true “live, work, play” city.