For millions of Americans, working from home has quickly become the norm. With the pandemic forcing workplaces to shutter, employees have been pushed to adapt to remote work. What seemed like a temporary solution has now endured for a year, leaving many to ask if we will ever go back to traditional office spaces again. If remote work does persist, what would that mean for cities and downtown business districts?
Listen: Is remote work here to stay?
Kirk Pinho is a real estate reporter for Crain’s Detroit Business. He says during the pandemic, some smaller businesses have shed their office space altogether while other companies have kept their offices but have put off in-person work until all employees have been vaccinated.
“It’s really sort of an existential issue that we’ve got coming up here,” says Pinho on the impending return to the office. Employers will have to grapple with employee appetite for in-person work and what that means for the company’s bottom line.
A return to the office has broader economic implications beyond individual companies as well, if remote work endures, downtown business districts could take a considerable hit. “If we are down 25-30% of the workforce (working in offices), that is going to have an impact on those street-level retailers and restaurants and bars and that sort of thing,” says Pinho. With the future of American work still up in the air, it seems cities and downtowns are stuck in a period of uncertainty as well.