Chief Investment Officer
Larry Light, Markets Editor, June 16, 2020
Chief Investment Officer and Chief Executive Officer, Stuart Katz, shares his thoughts on why office buildings, currently empty as a health risk, will one day be full again.
Also called “densification,” this arrangement ran into a quagmire with the onset of the pandemic. Suddenly, the idea of sharing air with office mates within reach seemed insane. These days, “density is a bad word,” said Stuart Katz, CEO and CIO of Robertson Stephens Wealth Management.
Amid widespread government-ordered shutdowns, office workers found themselves doing their jobs at home, using keyboards and screens. Imagine if the pandemic had occurred in 1980 instead of 2020: White-collar work would have simply ceased. But now, with Zoom and other teleconferencing technologies, with almost universal broadband, remote work is very do-able.
A big question exists about whether people are more productive at home these days. If you have children, taking care of them plus handling home schooling can eat into work. For others, though, remote working removes distractions. Further, the time and stress of commuting vanishes. After the US Patent and Trademark Office allowed patent examiners to work from home in 2012, their productivity rose 4.4%, a Harvard Business School study found.
Whether that successful experiment can be copied elsewhere or not, a largescale return of workers to offices—provided that they’re safe—has logic to it.
Many people love the camaraderie of an office, and also the chance to get away from the house. Face-to-face interactions, often impromptu, are indeed the crucibles of creativity. “An informal, unscheduled meeting is hard to replicate in the virtual world,” Katz said. Hiring and mentoring also function better in person, pro-office folks say.
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