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The post-COVID office will be very different

August 26, 2020, 9:10 AM UTC

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Good morning.

Has the pandemic killed the office? No, say Diane Hoskins and Andy Cohen, co-CEOs of Gensler, the world’s largest architecture firm. But while the office may not be dead, it is going to be very different in the post-COVID future.

The firm’s research shows only 14% of workers want to stay home full time. “A majority are saying they want back. They have roommates, they have parents, they have dogs,” says Cohen. But the offices they return to will be more of “a hybrid kind of work environment, with some people at home, but many at the office. And it will be all about collaboration and innovation.”

“What’s the big AHA?“ asks Hoskins. “It’s that the ultimate value of the workplace is people. Why do people want to be there? At the end of the day we are there because of the other people that are there…Think of the workplace as a clubhouse.”

Interestingly, Cohen and Hoskins don’t foresee a huge drop in demand for overall office square footage. While offices may have fewer people in them, those people will need more room—a desire for “de-densification” that started even before the pandemic, but has clearly been accelerated by it.

“If you do the math, it is about 94% of what they do today,” says Hoskins. But “we need to design the space slightly differently, given what we know. There are people who will want to work from home, there are people who will want to work two days from home, and there are people who want to work three days from home. It will be a more individualized workplace.”

The locations could also be different. “How do you start to create places where people live, that are nearby, that you can get to in 15 minutes?”

And technology will change the experience, as well. The firm is focusing on creating “touchless and frictionless space,” says Cohen. “We are working on apps that allow you to check in, will already know what floor you are going to, will help navigate you in the space, to keep you socially distant.”

Hoskins and Cohen have shared the top job at the global architecture firm since 2005—a rare co-CEO success story. “We are both architects, and architecture is a team sport,” says Hoskins (Frank Lloyd Wright and Ayn Rand notwithstanding.) “The issue is how you work with another human being, respect them, how you make decisions. We have solved that problem.”

News below.

Alan Murray


Exchange attack

New Zealand's NZX stock exchange has been interrupted by an apparent cyber attack for two days running. The exchange blamed yesterday's disruption on an offshore denial-of-service attack hitting its systems, and said the attack had been "mitigated". Then it struck again today. Guardian

American Airlines

American Airlines has announced one of the industry's largest tranches of job cuts, as a result of the pandemic's effect on travel. American intends to slash 19,000 jobs in October, after a government wage-support program ends. Adding in voluntary departures, the carrier expects to end up with a workforce 30% smaller than it was in March. That is, unless Congress extends pandemic aid. Fortune

German jobs

Germany has extended its pandemic-related Kurzarbeit semi-furlough scheme until the end of next year. The program sees the government cover around two-thirds of lost wages when companies have to cut their workers' hours, in order to save costs. Extending it should reduce the likelihood of mass job losses in Germany, much as it did during the great financial crisis a decade ago. Bloomberg

Teva indictment

The U.S. unit of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries has been charged for allegedly conspiring with competitors to drive up prices for generic drugs. Teva reportedly refused to agree to a settlement; then it got indicted. Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim: "Today’s charge reaffirms that no company is too big to be prosecuted for its role in conspiracies that led to substantially higher prices for generic drugs relied on by millions of Americans." Teva rejects the allegations. Reuters


Easterbrook probe

McDonald's has been probing alleged improprieties by its sacked former CEO, Steve Easterbrook, and now it's widened the probe to look into claims that he also covered up other employees' misconduct. The Wall Street Journal spoke to former managers at the company who say Easterbrook ignored complaints about some executives' conduct. WSJ

iPhone resilience

Gartner estimates that global smartphone sales fell 20.4% year-on-year in Q2—Samsung down 27.1%, Huawei down 6.8%, and so on. But Apple? It seems iPhone sales were down merely 0.4%. Gartner research VP Annette Zimmermann: "The improved business environment in China helped Apple achieve growth in the country. In addition, the introduction of the new iPhone SE encouraged users of older phones upgrade their smartphones." CNBC

Coronavirus reinfections

It's not just a man in Hong Kong who's been reinfected with the coronavirus: similar reports have come out of Belgium and the Netherlands. The Belgian patient apparently did not develop strong-enough antibodies the first time round, but it remains unclear how rare this phenomenon is. Deutsche Welle

Globalization revival

COVID-19 proves globalization isn't dead, Oxford University professor Ian Goldin argues in this Financial Times piece. Goldin: "As individuals and companies move online, national borders become less relevant. Virtual meetings are substituting for travel and physical meetings, with their greater efficiency leading to higher levels of engagement. This increased digital connectivity facilitates the rapid flow of ideas, the most influential dimension of globalization." FT

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.