THE WFH ERA
Looking into my corporate crystal ball, I’d say the future of the shared workspace is shaky at best. That’s not an earth-shaking revelation in this time of crisis. But chatter about the future of remote work got some fresh buzz Thursday when Mark Zuckerberg said he expects about half of Facebook’s workforce to be working remotely in the next five to 10 years. That comes on the heels of Twitter’s company-wide announcement earlier this month that all staff are free to work from home FOR-EV-ER.
Just a couple of months ago, such a mass migration from the tech world’s cushy, open-concept, free-snack-having offices would have seemed crazy. What’s not to love about hanging out at work when work has fro-yo and ping pong? All of a sudden, those ping pong paddles just look like virus magnets.
It’s hard to overstate the impact such a migration would have on society. Commercial real estate prices could crater in places like New York and the Bay Area. White-collar workers who had been driving rent prices up can suddenly ditch their $3,000 a month Manhattan studio and go work… just about anywhere with decent wifi. (Brb, googling “how to buy a beach house in Thailand…”)
There are plenty of downsides as well, not least of which would be the loss of office friendships and creative partnerships that thrive when we’re all together.
It may be too soon to pronounce the death of the office, but even for those of us who go back, the water-cooler-huddling culture we’d known is likely gone for good.
THRIVING VS. BARELY SURVIVING, OR HOW THE PANDEMIC CREATED A CORPORATE CASTE SYSTEM
When the pandemic hit the United States two months ago, the government sorted businesses into two groups: The essentials and the nonessentials. This week, we saw how much those labels are worth.
For the already-struggling “nonessentials” — Macy’s, Kohl’s, Victoria’s Secret — the impact is devastating. Macy’s on Thursday reported it lost more than $1 billion between February and May. Vicky’s is closing a quarter of its stores. Kohl’s sales tanked 44%.
Meanwhile the essential class — your Walmarts, your Home Depots — stayed open and reaped the benefits of panic buying, hoarding, and nesting. Americans stocked up, stayed home, and finally tackled that bookshelf project they started last June. (And yes, the big-box boys had to deal with additional costs for labor and shipping, but we’ve looked at the balance sheets and we’re pretty sure they can afford it. Just saying.)
R.I.P. SALAD BAR
Many years from now, we’ll tell our grandchildren about the time before they were born when raw food was allowed to sit out, exposed to the air for hours, in big vats from which we’d spoon our lunches into a cardboard box. They were called salad bars, and they died in 2020.
It’s safe to assume salad bars won’t be making a comeback anytime soon. But rather than let the bars sit vacant, one grocery store in Missouri put it to good use and stocked it with beer, liquor, cereal and candy — basically the four key food groups of the corona era. We applaud your innovation, Dierbergs of Chesterfield.
WHY YOU’D NEVER HEARD OF ZOOM ‘TIL TWO MONTHS AGO
“How did we get here?” The video communication platform Zoom began as a simple project — a mostly B2B tool that could enable, say, a venture capital firm to seamlessly take a virtual pitch from across the globe. According to Eric Yuan, the platform’s creator, it was never intended to facilitate something like British Cabinet meetings. CNN Business’ John Sarlin spoke to Yuan about Zoom’s humble beginnings and meteoric rise.
ARE YOU STILL WATCHING?
It turns out there are people out there who haven’t been bingeing Netflix to cope with the reality of 2020, in which the outdoors have become a source of both longing and terror. I guess some people read? Anyway, as a courtesy to make sure customers aren’t locked into a subscription they either forgot they have or no longer want, Netflix is going to start asking inactive users if they want to keep their membership. If they don’t want it, or if they don’t respond, Netflix will automatically cancel it.