Office Hours: Abandoned offices make for real estate steals
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The way we work is rapidly evolving. In a matter of months, the pandemic has forever changed how we communicate, where we conduct business, the technology we use and how we juggle home and work life. There’s also been a much-needed spotlight thrown on the makeup of the workforce and the efforts being done to make the ad world a more-inclusive place. Every Thursday, Ad Age will tackle a different issue regarding the way these changes are impacting our professional lives.
Real estate steal
With many companies exiting their office spaces in Manhattan, it’s created an opportunity for organizations that are interested in actually expanding their footprint to snag a good deal. Creative agency Bullish is looking to capitalize on all the empty space after its lease expired in July. Currently, the New York-based agency is completely virtual, says Michael Duda, managing partner at Bullish. And while, right now, there’s no pressure to return to the physical office any time soon, he says the agency is taking advantage of fashion companies and the like leaving their offices dormant. “We can get favorable rents,” he says. “It is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for real estate.”
Bullish is currently looking at spaces, even though Duda doesn’t expect employees to return to the office until January at the earliest, simply because the time is right to get a deal. “Everyone in Midtown is looking to trade down to a smaller space, I am hearing from brokers,” he says. Bullish is in the market to get more space than they actually need because of the potential for a favorable deal. It will allow people to have more space to spread out. “There’s a lot of inventory out there and I don’t see a mad rush to snap it up,” Duda says.
Ultimately, Duda believes in real-life office experiences, saying working remotely doesn’t benefit all employees, especially younger team members. “There’s something about water-cooler culture that you can’t get on Zoom.” That being said, he says the agency will be more agile moving forward and right now realizes people in New York City don’t want to commute.
Diary of a CEO
BBDO New York President and CEO Kirsten Flanik ditched her sweatpants and braved the subway last week, marking her return to the office for the first time since March 13. BBDO's New York office has been open since July—with a maximum capacity of 25 percent, observance of CDC guidelines and pre-registration to allow for proper spacing. But, says Flanik, most employees are still working remotely. Still, Labor Day brought the craving for an in-person work experience. From an outdoor dining lunch break to discovering that her favorite Dunkin didn’t have a line, Flanik chronicled her first day back in Midtown.
Deutsch also reopened its doors on 34th Street in New York City on Tuesday for employees who want to return to the office, Campaign reports. The agency expected to have about 16 of its employees return. Protocols require staffers to book a workspace to ensure social distancing.
Apple rethinks office life
While some agencies are getting back to IRL experiences, Apple doesn’t expect most of its staff to go back to its new campus in Silicon Valley until sometime next year, according to Bloomberg. And even then, Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn’t believe the company will “return to the way we were because we’ve found that there are some things that actually work really well virtually.” He predicts some new work habits will remain after the pandemic. Currently, just 10-to-15 percent of Apple employees have gone back to the office. Still, Cook, who is going into the office at various points during the week, does find value in being together, saying the office sparks creativity during things like impromptu meetings.
We’ve spent the last six months going from our bedroom to our couch to our dining room table. And while commuting has historically been a dreaded part of the day—from traffic to crammed subways—the absence of commuting means there’s little distinction between the work day and home life. To fix this, Microsoft created new software that helps redress the balance. Microsoft Teams is now adding the ability to schedule a virtual commute, reminding users about the end of the work day and suggesting tasks to help workers wind down and create some mental space before needing to tend to family obligations, Bloomberg reports.
Ralph Lauren plans to cut 15 percent of its workforce, or about 3,700 workers, as it moves to more online sales. This comes, of course, as Ralph Lauren, along with many other clothing retailers, grapple with dwindling sales.
Meredith laid off 180 employees after being hit with advertising sales declines amid the pandemic, WWD reports.
But despite companies still cutting staff, it seems the media space is starting to hire again as productions resume, according to Business Insider, which listed the top nine recruiters in the media industry.
That does it for this week's Office Hours. Thanks for reading and we hope you are all staying safe and well. For more industry news and insight, follow us on Twitter: @adage.
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