webinar: the purpose of the office, post-COVID19 crisis

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I guess you all realized within the last few days that the Covid-19 crisis won't be a small thing. We are going through a real crisis of which the implications go far beyond the medical ones.

From an economic perspective, all of us know that one must brace for hard times: Hospitality, restaurants, or the event industry are shred with cancellations and low attendance. Airlines, plagued industry, is also struggling with uncountable cancellations and the risk of quarantine in every affluent countries international airports. Retail industry is starting to suffer the consequences as well. The upcoming recession is now palpable. It's been a couple of years that I have been waiting for a recession - and I was clearly not alone. I have been spoon fed with cycle theory and I wait for Juglar more than for the prophet over the short term. But as every time a crisis is happening, it was almost impossible to predict where it could come from. Whether this one will be a glitch in our flawless decade growth, or will be structural, is hard to say for now.

Like every turmoil, this comes with its own opportunities. While we are only at the verge of the real thing, we can still start to think about the consequences on a large scale. Remote working has reached tremendous levels that we have never experienced before. You can count on two hands the Fortune 500 companies, in North America, that are not encouraging their office workers to work from home - not to mention that most of them have shut down one or several of their facilities. And we know this will last for several weeks. The entire corporate America is discovering what it's like to not work in an office.

Is this effective? God knows. Is the business running at the same pace as before, ceteris paribus? Probably not. But many organizations - and to be more precise, managers - are truly discovering that it can work. After several weeks of remote working for all these employees, we can really wonder if it would go back as before, when the virus will have vanished. We may presume the answer: it will not - something will have changed.

Of course we knew that remote working was growing and was a thing - more than 7% of all US workers are conducting their professional activities exclusively from home, up from 2% in 2001. But we were not expecting that it will be propelled this way. So be it!

This carries on its own so many implications that it would be tedious to describe it in a post such as this one. Of course, we can discuss its attributes: the technology, mental health condition, regulation, management style that fits distance working, and so on.

But what eventually strikes me is the impact it will have on our definition of the office. What can be the purpose of the office in this post-corona virus world, where every office workers tasted the greatness and the challenges offered by remote working? Will it still be a necessity or can we do without it? If the office still find its purpose in this new world, what it should look like? What impact will it have on corporate real estate?

I am sure you may have an idea. That's why I invite you to connect in something that will look like a webinar, but won't be a webinar, on Thursday, March 19th, at 9am EST (2pm CET). We will discuss the purpose of the office, post-Covid 19.

It won't be a webinar, because we are expecting it to be a mass conversation, rather than a solemn presentation. We have selected several speakers - all veterans, yet rebels from the corporate real estate industry - who will share with you their insights about this new world. Feel free to ask questions or give your opinion. Seriously, we are all the same in front of this future - and we may collectively bring out answers that we did not think about in the first place.

It won't be a webinar also because we have decided to do it on Discord - a popular chat/streaming application for gamers. Ask your kids, they might know. Here is the link: https://discord.gg/3MstkFy . And as most of us will be working from home - you should be able to do it in a simpler way that if you were at the office.

It will be a webinar - because we don't have a better word to call it - for now. But let's find it altogether.

Thank you,

Bill Robert, co-founder & managing director, North America