Business VoIP Featured Article

Permanent Remote Workforce May Double After COVID-19

August 14, 2020

By Laura Stotler, Business VoIP Contributing Editor

The number of permanent remote workers could double because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a forecast from real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield. The company's CEO Brett White told MSNBC that despite the huge jump in numbers, he thinks a majority of workers will return to the office when the coronavirus pandemic is over.

White said he believes as much as 10 to 11 percent of the workforce will remain home permanently post-COVID, compared to the roughly 4.5 to five percent that worked remotely before the onset of the coronavirus.

Cushman & Wakefield reported an 18 percent year-over-year decline in quarterly revenues last week because of the pandemic's massive disruption of real estate brokerage activity. Other sectors of the economy have clearly been negatively impacted, and the fallout makes the future of work uncertain.

Many large companies have opted to keep their employees working remotely for the foreseeable future, and were quickly able to transition to a remote work model at the onset of COVID-19.

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, has told employees they may remain at home until June of 2021, as has Facebook. And Twitter and Square are allowing workers to remain home permanently if they choose to. Apple is also embracing a semi-permanent remote work model, telling staff last month that they won't return to offices until at least early 2021. The company also said a return to physical offices would rely on development of a successful vaccine and/or therapeutics for the coronavirus.

At the same time, Facebook recently signed a lease for a New York City office building that will add 730,000 square feet to its already 2.2 million square feet of office space. And Google is also expanding its physical office footprint, moving ahead with a major development in London's King's Cross area.

But Cushman & Wakefield reveal U.S. office vacancies are on the rise overall, and could reach 15 to 18 percent in the next 24 to 30 months. That translates to a potential rent decline of five to 15 percent.

“You look around the country... most office businesses are open in one form or another,” White told CNBC. “Most of them have said, 'We’ll take back 20 percent, 30 percent of our employees, and yet you walk into the office and there’s half a dozen people in there.”

The numbers translate to an uncertain future for the commercial real estate market, and the future of office and remote work in general.


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