The first use of the word “work” dates to the 13th century, meaning “physical effort, exertion”. But it was not until the 17th century that the phrase “going to work” was used. Shakespeare was one of the first to use this phrase, and we have been “going to work” ever since.
Then the pandemic came, which caused people to stop “going to work”, in effect, putting us back to the 17th century again. Prior to the 17th century , there was nowhere to “go to work”!
The world’s first skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building in Chicago, was completed in 1885. It was considered the “Father of the Skyscraper” and was 10 stories high—considered a modern miracle at the time. Since then, skyscrapers have come to dominate the downtown cores of the world’s cities. Today, New York City’s office market has a vacancy rate of 53 percent, and the prevailing sentiment among many employees is that it should stay that way, so that they can “work from home” (regardless of what their managers say). Research from NYU estimates that by 2029, the city’s office buildings will drop in value by 28 percent, or $49 billion.
Before the pandemic, office workers became accustomed to videoconferencing, but it was clunky and complicated. Then along came Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Webex—companies that accomplished about ten years of technological innovation in a matter of months. In future, AI, and augmented and virtual reality will cause even this development to feel primitive, and the experience of being able to touch people or walk around their homes with them, will become the everyday experience. “Being with someone” may not always mean being physically in the same place.
Put these pieces together, add the independent thinking of Gen-X and Z employees, and we have a recipe for a new way of doing things.
The implication for cars, energy, commercial and personal real estate, property taxes, affordable housing, leadership, lifestyle, health, mental fitness, productivity, technology and so much more will be enormous and our lives will never be the same again. This genie will not go back in the bottle, and the opportunities will be enormous.
What are your predictions?