After last Friday’s failed attempt at getting my Covid mullet sorted out, I put the alarm on to wake me up at sparrow’s fart this morning to get to the barber as soon as they started shearing. I managed to get down there at about 5 minutes after they opened and there was still a queue. Two blokes were being shorn, one of whom had hair almost as long as mine, four were waiting inside the establishment and I formed an orderly queue behind the one bloke standing just outside the door. It was not long before there were a couple of other blokes standing behind me.
To while away the time spent waiting, I began a conversation with the bloke in front of me. It turned out he was a software engineer who worked for Microsoft. He worked from home almost entirely, occasionally going up to Sydney where, he said, the rest of ‘his team’ worked. His trips to Sydney were interspersed with an annual trip over to the headquarters of Microsoft in Seattle. I presume much of this travel has been curtailed over the last 20 months or so because of the pandemic, and that any meetings he had were online with, in his case, using the Microsoft ‘Teams’ application. Like him, I have used ‘Teams’ for work-related meetings, and have used Zoom for discussions with colleagues in the US, Sweden and other parts of Australia.
While talking to my queue-mate, we mused over how things had changed since we got our first computers. As well as killing millions, this pandemic has also changed many things and I suspect that the way people work will be one of them. In addition to online meetings of small groups, there have also been ‘virtual conferences’ where many more people are involved. Data from earlier this year, shows that about 40% of people who have jobs were working from home at least once a week, and most of those people expected that to continue1.
There are several studies which show that working from home can increase productivity, some of which was due to the quieter working environment2. In addition to this, Australians working from home are saving an average of 67 minutes per day without their commute and working from home one day per week over a working year would save the average worker the equivalent of seven days in travel time, and nearly $400 in transport costs3. Another study found that working from home helped focus on the tasks that are most important, and spent less time being drawn into large, often pointless, meetings, and allowed people to be more flexible in their schedules4.
This ‘revolution’ is likely to have a significant impact on demand for office space over the next few years. Businesses will require less office space, with over 75% of US CEOs expecting they will need less office space in future5. I wouldn’t like to have large amounts of cash invested in commercial property.