As the pandemic mercifully subsides, New York City is finalizing plans to bring about 80,000 municipal employees back to work in person.
It's a move that is expected to help show the Big Apple is back in business, The New York Times reported today.
"Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision to bring the nation's largest municipal workforce back to the office signals a remarkable turnabout in the fortunes of a city that served as the national epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, coming to symbolize the perils of living in densely packed global capitals," the Times says in an article headlined "Mayor Ends Remote Work for 80,000 in Signal to Rest of New York City" [subscription required].
The move is hailed as a 'major momentum builder'
New York office space, like pretty much everywhere else across the country, was largely abandoned last spring, impacting landlords and businesses of all types that cater to that crowd, including the hard-hit restaurant industry. Residential real estate also has been hit hard by many people choosing to leave for greener -- and safer pastures -- themselves.
"Above all else, this is a major momentum builder," Reggie Thomas, a senior vice president with the Real Estate Board of New York, told the Times about the mayor's move.
Meanwhile, the Partnership for New York City released a survey on March 11 that projected 45% of the 1 million or so office workers in the city would return by September. Employers who responded to the survey said 56% of their staff will continue to work remotely at least part of the time.
The Big Apple as test tube or petri dish
New York's experience in returning to work will be a test tube -- or maybe a very large petri dish -- for how commuters, many of whom rely on public transportation, respond to going back to the office.
That can't happen soon enough for many real estate investors, including those real estate investment trusts (REITs) that have a huge stake in office space.
Other reopenings also are underway across the country, too, of course. For example, in South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster ordered state workers to begin reporting to work in person, in waves, followed soon by similar edicts from city and county officials in Columbia, the state capital.
While operating under mandates from public health officials, each organization will have its own rules about masks. social distancing, and other precautionary measures, and about how fast they'll bring people back into physical locations.
The Millionacres bottom line
There's a lot of mixed messages about the return to office work. Loss of collaboration and productivity, for instance, competes with workers' concerns for their own safety and a company's ability to throw a much broader net for good help in a remote setting. Indeed, there's evidence that a lot of people would prefer to just stay at home if they can.
A new normal will emerge, but what it will look like is far from being known and probably will vary from city to city. Heck, from block to block, in some places.
And because, of course, people need to eat and have a roof over their head -- including at work for the white-collar set -- the long-term ramifications for all kinds of real estate will soon be emerging. Real estate investors who can spot and respond to those trends around them will be among those who benefit from the changes.