Author Topic: the death of the urban office building  (Read 18142 times)

K2SO

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Re: the death of the urban office building
« Reply #20 on: May 27, 2020, 07:32:21 AM »
In my opinion this work from home thing is actually proving to me why we NEED offices.

You can't form relationships over Zoom. You might be able to maintain them, but you can't form them. You can't truly build trust. You can't learn by watching how someone manages their day. You can't have spontaneous discussions by the coffee machine.

Let me take something like Shopify as an example, and many tech firms are in this position. They are saying that in the future they will have more employees working from home. Now I've been to their office. Free food and drink, including alcohol, for everyone, all day long. Once you've given this benefit to people, it's hard to take it away. This is a "get out of jail free" card for them. A way to take away this costly benefit without the blowback from employees.

If you have a job you can do remotely, and choose to spend most of your time at home, you are just a step or two away from having your job outsourced to India. Get in the office. Form and strengthen relationships. Learn. Mentor. Lead.  You can't do this shit from your kitchen table on Zoom. Sorry, you just can't. Unless you have no aspiration other than to be a cog in the machine.
 


Jurgis

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Re: the death of the urban office building
« Reply #21 on: May 27, 2020, 07:47:12 AM »
In my opinion this work from home thing is actually proving to me why we NEED offices.

You can't form relationships over Zoom. You might be able to maintain them, but you can't form them. You can't truly build trust. You can't learn by watching how someone manages their day. You can't have spontaneous discussions by the coffee machine.

Let me take something like Shopify as an example, and many tech firms are in this position. They are saying that in the future they will have more employees working from home. Now I've been to their office. Free food and drink, including alcohol, for everyone, all day long. Once you've given this benefit to people, it's hard to take it away. This is a "get out of jail free" card for them. A way to take away this costly benefit without the blowback from employees.

If you have a job you can do remotely, and choose to spend most of your time at home, you are just a step or two away from having your job outsourced to India. Get in the office. Form and strengthen relationships. Learn. Mentor. Lead.  You can't do this shit from your kitchen table on Zoom. Sorry, you just can't. Unless you have no aspiration other than to be a cog in the machine.

This thread and people in it are just rehashing the same arguments again and again that were already rehashed in other threads.

Not to (particularly) pick on you: I know two people in tech company who did the fastest career advances while working completely remotely. Closest office within maybe 100 miles or so. And yeah they learn, mentor, lead, etc. And they went up the career ladder way faster than people in the office who can schmooze, etc. So perhaps you should be more open minded.

Although I mostly agree that offices will survive.
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SharperDingaan

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Re: the death of the urban office building
« Reply #22 on: May 27, 2020, 08:35:45 AM »
Office buildings are still required - it's just much less NYC Grade-A space, much more Detroit Grade-B space, and much less TOTAL space. We still socialize, work the office-cooler, etc - but in the Detroits, not NYC. NYC/London/Paris etc still have the elites - just not as many of them (posers failed the cut).

BUT - we no longer need the cast of thousands anymore.
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cherzeca

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Re: the death of the urban office building
« Reply #23 on: May 27, 2020, 08:42:12 AM »
They didnít have Zoom back then though.

A lot of knowledge work (marketing, accounting, finance, law, programming) can be done remotely.

Today's brief can easily be written remotely.  But how does a law firm develop tomorrow's partners, i.e., business generators?

I've seen this and been involved with it first hand...

Some of the more nimble & "forward thinking" law firms are "in shoring" from Boston, NYC, LA & SF to say Detroit.  Specifically, they are moving low-end, low value work to a Detroit location.  In Detroit, you've got mail, power, interweb, and most other modern amenities.  You've also got VERY cheap office space, and most importantly of all, you've got hordes of desperate attorneys who are willing to work for $20 to $25 an hour reviewing & sorting & doing basic prep work on large cases.  You've got plenty of people fresh out of law skool, desperate to bring in some money, but you've also got seasoned attorneys from firms that disbanded after GFC.  You've also got attorneys downsized from government, all types.

Some of these cases that get farmed out will literally have MILLIONS of documents that need to be sorted & analyzed and have grunt work done.  Perfect for the Detroit attorney!

Detroit is not the only place, Chicago, Charlotte, Houston, Atlanta are other hot spots.

The high end work still gets done in NYC, along with client meetings (most of the time), and the partners and people on partner track.  So shrink down NYC 75%, keep the high end there, but move out most everything that can be done elsewhere.

This has been going on for the better part of a decade though.  I think it will continue to accelerate and why not spread to other sectors of the economy?

what you say is accurate, but this takes it one step forward.  contract work for doc review and discovery searches are being "offshored" at cheap rates to contract attorneys hired on a deal/case basis, but this new twist would have the important work done by all attorneys be done remotely...until there is a need to meet in person over something...this is happening now due to covid and there is no reason that wont continue imo

yes, I forgot to mention that most work is now being done remotely.

I'm not sure how long that will last?  There are some clients that are NOTORIOUS about security.  Of course, it depends on the client and the firm.

In the past, remote work was rather rare...now it is rather common.

With the remote work, I would imagine you've got all sorts of potential problems, security & confidentiality being near the top of the list....then you've got technical problems....then you've got group dynamics and cohesiveness.  When I was working projects, the first few days were critical, as attorneys would discuss different theories, different things that they were seeing, and would try to act in a synchronized fashion.  Then you would have the group interfacing with the partner on conference calls.  I guess some of this could be done with dispersed work groups, but I would think that quality and efficiency would take a hit to some degree.

Pre-covid, there were some attorneys who were REAL germophobes.  There would always be Lysol wipes & dis-infectant.  Some of the women were really particular about this as we had shared workstations.  If those people were antsy about germs before all this happened, I can't imagine what they are like now.

I think we will know a lot more in a few months, if this is permanent, or if people start going back to offices.

with encryption, I dont see security being an issue.  management will have to be more alert though. it cant look at card reader reports anymore for associates etc leaving the office at 11pm...

cherzeca

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Re: the death of the urban office building
« Reply #24 on: May 27, 2020, 08:44:46 AM »
In my opinion this work from home thing is actually proving to me why we NEED offices.

You can't form relationships over Zoom. You might be able to maintain them, but you can't form them. You can't truly build trust. You can't learn by watching how someone manages their day. You can't have spontaneous discussions by the coffee machine.

Let me take something like Shopify as an example, and many tech firms are in this position. They are saying that in the future they will have more employees working from home. Now I've been to their office. Free food and drink, including alcohol, for everyone, all day long. Once you've given this benefit to people, it's hard to take it away. This is a "get out of jail free" card for them. A way to take away this costly benefit without the blowback from employees.

If you have a job you can do remotely, and choose to spend most of your time at home, you are just a step or two away from having your job outsourced to India. Get in the office. Form and strengthen relationships. Learn. Mentor. Lead.  You can't do this shit from your kitchen table on Zoom. Sorry, you just can't. Unless you have no aspiration other than to be a cog in the machine.

this is a great post, but it addresses what associates and junior executives have to do...senior execs may not feel as strongly about the social/management aspects, and care more about the bottom line cost savings effect on their bonuses...

DTEJD1997

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Re: the death of the urban office building
« Reply #25 on: May 27, 2020, 08:58:59 AM »
They didnít have Zoom back then though.

A lot of knowledge work (marketing, accounting, finance, law, programming) can be done remotely.

Today's brief can easily be written remotely.  But how does a law firm develop tomorrow's partners, i.e., business generators?

I've seen this and been involved with it first hand...

Some of the more nimble & "forward thinking" law firms are "in shoring" from Boston, NYC, LA & SF to say Detroit.  Specifically, they are moving low-end, low value work to a Detroit location.  In Detroit, you've got mail, power, interweb, and most other modern amenities.  You've also got VERY cheap office space, and most importantly of all, you've got hordes of desperate attorneys who are willing to work for $20 to $25 an hour reviewing & sorting & doing basic prep work on large cases.  You've got plenty of people fresh out of law skool, desperate to bring in some money, but you've also got seasoned attorneys from firms that disbanded after GFC.  You've also got attorneys downsized from government, all types.

Some of these cases that get farmed out will literally have MILLIONS of documents that need to be sorted & analyzed and have grunt work done.  Perfect for the Detroit attorney!

Detroit is not the only place, Chicago, Charlotte, Houston, Atlanta are other hot spots.

The high end work still gets done in NYC, along with client meetings (most of the time), and the partners and people on partner track.  So shrink down NYC 75%, keep the high end there, but move out most everything that can be done elsewhere.

This has been going on for the better part of a decade though.  I think it will continue to accelerate and why not spread to other sectors of the economy?

what you say is accurate, but this takes it one step forward.  contract work for doc review and discovery searches are being "offshored" at cheap rates to contract attorneys hired on a deal/case basis, but this new twist would have the important work done by all attorneys be done remotely...until there is a need to meet in person over something...this is happening now due to covid and there is no reason that wont continue imo

yes, I forgot to mention that most work is now being done remotely.

I'm not sure how long that will last?  There are some clients that are NOTORIOUS about security.  Of course, it depends on the client and the firm.

In the past, remote work was rather rare...now it is rather common.

With the remote work, I would imagine you've got all sorts of potential problems, security & confidentiality being near the top of the list....then you've got technical problems....then you've got group dynamics and cohesiveness.  When I was working projects, the first few days were critical, as attorneys would discuss different theories, different things that they were seeing, and would try to act in a synchronized fashion.  Then you would have the group interfacing with the partner on conference calls.  I guess some of this could be done with dispersed work groups, but I would think that quality and efficiency would take a hit to some degree.

Pre-covid, there were some attorneys who were REAL germophobes.  There would always be Lysol wipes & dis-infectant.  Some of the women were really particular about this as we had shared workstations.  If those people were antsy about germs before all this happened, I can't imagine what they are like now.

I think we will know a lot more in a few months, if this is permanent, or if people start going back to offices.

with encryption, I dont see security being an issue.  management will have to be more alert though. it cant look at card reader reports anymore for associates etc leaving the office at 11pm...

High level encryption is certainly a must for remote legal work...but there are a myriad of OTHER security problems besides just the encryption issue.

One of the primary problems is potential waiver of attorney-client privilege if other people see/overhear legal matters being discussed.  For example, does the Amazon echo (other devices) waive attorney-client privilege?  What about spouse/children/significant other?

In a strict office setting, this can be controlled to a great degree.  With a remote worker gang, that becomes more problematic.


Foreign Tuffett

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Re: the death of the urban office building
« Reply #26 on: May 27, 2020, 11:33:34 AM »
In my opinion this work from home thing is actually proving to me why we NEED offices.

You can't form relationships over Zoom. You might be able to maintain them, but you can't form them. You can't truly build trust. You can't learn by watching how someone manages their day. You can't have spontaneous discussions by the coffee machine.

Let me take something like Shopify as an example, and many tech firms are in this position. They are saying that in the future they will have more employees working from home. Now I've been to their office. Free food and drink, including alcohol, for everyone, all day long. Once you've given this benefit to people, it's hard to take it away. This is a "get out of jail free" card for them. A way to take away this costly benefit without the blowback from employees.

If you have a job you can do remotely, and choose to spend most of your time at home, you are just a step or two away from having your job outsourced to India. Get in the office. Form and strengthen relationships. Learn. Mentor. Lead.  You can't do this shit from your kitchen table on Zoom. Sorry, you just can't. Unless you have no aspiration other than to be a cog in the machine.

Good post.

Too add to what he said: Yes, obviously a great deal (most? almost all?) of white collar type work CAN be done remotely, but there are very good reasons nearly all companies have offices:

Hard to build and maintain a healthy company culture and camaraderie when employees rarely (or never) meet in person.

Tough to track what people are actually doing (or not doing) all day. The unfortunate reality is that some people will try to "skate" along doing minimal work because they feel like they are completely unsupervised. It is time consuming and costly to fire these people as they will use a myriad of excuses (like internet outages) to extend the gravy train as long as possible.

People working from home tend to have big problems compartmentalizing the different parts of their life since they are spending so much time at the house. This leads to a lack of structure, which leads to weird shit like younger employees sending emails late at night, middle age employees working regular office hours, older employees sending emails at 5AM. This becomes even worse when everyone is in different timezones. The end result is that people feel like they need to check email 24/7, which makes them miserable

You will lose extroverted employees to jobs with more traditional office environments. Some people just can't stand sitting at home day-after-day

Difficult to hire effectively without meeting people in person

Hard to build a client's trust when you haven't met them in person. This is why outside sales tends to be more effective than inside sales. I have a friend whose sales job could 100% be done over the phone/internet, but prior to COVID he was on the road all the time. Why? Because relationships matter, and are best built in person.

There are a myriad of other reasons as well
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jschembs

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Re: the death of the urban office building
« Reply #27 on: May 27, 2020, 11:48:21 AM »
In my opinion this work from home thing is actually proving to me why we NEED offices.

You can't form relationships over Zoom. You might be able to maintain them, but you can't form them. You can't truly build trust. You can't learn by watching how someone manages their day. You can't have spontaneous discussions by the coffee machine.

Let me take something like Shopify as an example, and many tech firms are in this position. They are saying that in the future they will have more employees working from home. Now I've been to their office. Free food and drink, including alcohol, for everyone, all day long. Once you've given this benefit to people, it's hard to take it away. This is a "get out of jail free" card for them. A way to take away this costly benefit without the blowback from employees.

If you have a job you can do remotely, and choose to spend most of your time at home, you are just a step or two away from having your job outsourced to India. Get in the office. Form and strengthen relationships. Learn. Mentor. Lead.  You can't do this shit from your kitchen table on Zoom. Sorry, you just can't. Unless you have no aspiration other than to be a cog in the machine.

this is a great post, but it addresses what associates and junior executives have to do...senior execs may not feel as strongly about the social/management aspects, and care more about the bottom line cost savings effect on their bonuses...

It's been interesting to see how COVID has adjusted my perspective on the value of face-to-face meetings.

For some perspective, I'm a partner at a regional M&A firm. Networking historically meant breakfasts, lunches, coffees, happy hours, larger events. I always felt a phone call didn't present nearly the same impact of a face-to-face meeting. While I agree that remains true for initial meetings and "relationship building," I've found phone calls to my existing network to be very productive and engaging - if anything, calling someone while we're both out of the office has far more intimacy.

Further to that point, think about the relative inefficiencies of a face-to-face meeting. Even for a quick 30-min coffee a few blocks from your office, you're likely nearly doubling that time with walk to/from, wait time for your drink, etc.

The takeaway for me is twofold. First, I can easily maintain networking with my existing contacts working remotely. While I'll certainly start going downtown during the summer, it's likely it'll split between in the office for more essential internal meetings, and more catch up calls at home. Second, many service firms are reevaluating their office composition, networking / marketing strategies, and as a byproduct, square footage needs.

I'm sure some of this is overreaction to the current environment, but I am convinced this will alter service work schedules and environments, with negative impacts on CRE. Further, the byproduct (which we're seeing in Seattle) is that retail / foodservice serving these markets will also be impacted, with resulting impact on CRE. As an example, Specialty's, a fairly entrenched breakfast/lunch/coffee chain with ~50 stores on the West Coast, closed shop last week.

https://www.sfgate.com/news/editorspicks/article/all-locations-of-Specialtys-close-15276064.php 

Jurgis

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Re: the death of the urban office building
« Reply #28 on: May 27, 2020, 12:01:03 PM »
Hard to build and maintain a healthy company culture and camaraderie when employees rarely (or never) meet in person.

Works just fine.

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Tough to track what people are actually doing (or not doing) all day. The unfortunate reality is that some people will try to "skate" along doing minimal work because they feel like they are completely unsupervised. It is time consuming and costly to fire these people as they will use a myriad of excuses (like internet outages) to extend the gravy train as long as possible.

Not sure why you are so negative about other people. I haven't seen this happen through X number of distributed teams.

Quote
People working from home tend to have big problems compartmentalizing the different parts of their life since they are spending so much time at the house. This leads to a lack of structure, which leads to weird shit like younger employees sending emails late at night, middle age employees working regular office hours, older employees sending emails at 5AM. This becomes even worse when everyone is in different timezones. The end result is that people feel like they need to check email 24/7, which makes them miserable

None of this is an issue. Yeah, sure people send emails and messages at weird times. And other people answer them when they can. It's not an issue unless you make it one. In good distributed team nobody makes it into an issue.

Quote
Difficult to hire effectively without meeting people in person

Not an issue. Actually possibly positive since hiring then is done on merits and not based on (unconscious) biases.
« Last Edit: May 27, 2020, 12:04:32 PM by Jurgis »
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rkbabang

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Re: the death of the urban office building
« Reply #29 on: May 27, 2020, 12:23:55 PM »
Hard to build and maintain a healthy company culture and camaraderie when employees rarely (or never) meet in person.

Works just fine. 

I agree.  I think I spend more time chatting and talking with my co-workers now than I did in the office.  I tended to stay at my desk for long stretches when I was working on something and not look up or talk to anyone.  Now everyone is a keyboard stroke away.


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Quote
Tough to track what people are actually doing (or not doing) all day. The unfortunate reality is that some people will try to "skate" along doing minimal work because they feel like they are completely unsupervised. It is time consuming and costly to fire these people as they will use a myriad of excuses (like internet outages) to extend the gravy train as long as possible.

Not sure why you are so negative about other people. I haven't seen this happen through X number of distributed teams.

People like that will not last in the organization.  If an employee needs a babysitter, do you even want them back at the office?  You can goof off at your desk in the office as well.   People do their jobs or they don't.  No different.

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People working from home tend to have big problems compartmentalizing the different parts of their life since they are spending so much time at the house. This leads to a lack of structure, which leads to weird shit like younger employees sending emails late at night, middle age employees working regular office hours, older employees sending emails at 5AM. This becomes even worse when everyone is in different timezones. The end result is that people feel like they need to check email 24/7, which makes them miserable

None of this is an issue. Yeah, sure people send emails and messages at weird times. And other people answer them when they can. It's not an issue unless you make it one. In good distributed team nobody makes it into an issue.

This is personal preference.  I've always had the ability to email my co-workers at 3AM from my phone and sometimes did.  I also never found it weird to come in in the morning and find that someone emailed me at 3AM and I'm checking it when I check it.   I've spent the last 2 years with 4 people on my team in China, so this is just normal for me.   I've never felt the need to check my email 24 hours a day.  You need to discipline yourself to work when your working and forget about it when your not.  The emails will be there in the morning when you start your day.

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Difficult to hire effectively without meeting people in person

Not an issue. Actually possibly positive since hiring then is done on merits and not based on (unconscious) biases.

This definitely isn't an issue.  I've interviewed by phone/skype and it is just as effective even with hours long technical interviews.

I wonder if age has something to do with this.  Many are just set in their ways and eventually enough people in that age group will retire and the world will change.  Sometimes changes are like that.