Social distancing practices might lead to new reality for office locations

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In the world of social distancing, many of the world’s office workers have not seen their desks for weeks. But when coronavirus lockdowns finally ease, there may be fewer desks to return to.

The Financial Times reports that as CEOs are facing a sudden need to cut costs, they have indicated in recent days that their property portfolios look like good places to start given the ease with which their companies have adapted to remote set-ups.

“The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past,” said Jes Staley of Barclays.

“Maybe we don’t need all the offices that we currently have around the world,” mused Mondelez’s Dirk van de Put, while Sergio Ermotti said UBS was already thinking about moving out of expensive city-centre offices.

The Financial Times reports that a PwC survey this week found that a quarter of chief financial officers were already thinking of cutting back on real estate, while the Site Selectors Guild, whose members help companies locate new buildings, said half of US office searches had been put on hold since the crisis hit.

Tom Stringer, who leads accounting firm BDO’s US site selection team, said that while most of its projects were going ahead, clients were having serious discussions about cutting back. “In six weeks we’ve taken almost the entirety of the back offices of corporate America and moved them to kitchens and living rooms and it’s been pretty seamless,” he said. “People are getting used to it. The stray dog or the kid wandering into the conference call is now accepted in corporate and governmental America.”

Financial Times

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