Commercial Real Estate in the Plague Year: The Office Tower Landscape is About to Be Remade

The elevator in a pandemic, and the accidental discovery that many businesses are 90% efficient with employees working from home.

By John E. McNellis, Principal at McNellis Partners, for The Registry:

“Without the elevator…there could be no downtown skyscrapers or residential high-rises, and city life as we know it would be impossible…the elevator’s role in American history has been no less profound or transformative than that of the automobile…“If we didn’t have elevators…we would have a megalopolis, one continuous city, stretching from Philadelphia to Boston, because everything would be five or six stories tall.” Boston Globe, 2 March 2014

Just as the elevator gave birth to the modern city, its loss will transform the city in ways the pundits will be debating for years to come. For make no mistake about it, we are going to lose—if not the elevator itself—then its marvelous efficiency. No longer will it whisk thousands of crowded passengers up sleek steel towers in a matter of minutes. Simply put, the elevator is ground zero for the COVID-19 virus, and its single biggest victim.

Let’s agree that elevators are fabulous machines, as impactful on modern society as anything invented since. Let’s agree that, between the elevator companies and the high-rise building owners, we have very smart, highly capable and motivated people who will doubtless figure out a way to minimize the risk an elevator poses.

For the sake of argument, let’s even agree that riding an empty elevator poses absolutely no risk, that there’s no hangover effect from its last rider (no scientist has gone that far). And let’s dispense with all the palliative measures for elevator safety we can think of by positing the ultimate one and then ask the only question that matters.

Let’s say that after each passenger trip, an elevator somehow runs through a veritable car wash of sanitizers, that it’s guaranteed 100 percent germ-free when you step on it. Let’s agree that you can’t get the virus from any of its surfaces.

Let’s assume that your office is in the tallest building in San Francisco—the beautiful 61 story Salesforce Tower—where a ride to the top in one of its 34 elevators takes 40 seconds.

Let’s even say that Salesforce restricts elevator ridership to, say, no more than four passengers at a time. Given all those safety precautions, would you be willing to ride in an oversized closet several times a day, year in and out, with three other passengers, knowing nothing can prevent a stranger’s fatal sneeze?

Even if 80 percent of you say, ”Sure, no worries, I’m good to go,” Salesforce and every other high-rise owner has a problem. An elevator that ferries a single passenger at a time (or four for that matter) is not an option in a high-rise.

To bring this home, I asked a good friend who works on one of Salesforce’s upper floors when he would feel comfortable returning to work. While not an alarmist, he sounded like one. “There’s no f***** way I’m going back there and riding one of those dinky elevators. I don’t care what they do.”

For his sake, let’s take it a step further and assume that the vaccine we’re all praying for turns out to be truly miraculous and that, rather than resemble flu shots, which range from 30 to 60 percent effective in any given flu season, the vaccine eradicates COVID-19 the way the smallpox vaccine eliminated smallpox. In that case, does everyone say olly olly oxen free and zoom skyward without a care? The employees, visitors and day trippers might.

But what about the owners of the businesses leasing space in high-rises? The guys who decide where to locate their offices, whether to sign 10 year leases? The guys calling those shots are smart, they know that bat soup is staying on the menu in Wuhan, that fraught animal-human contact will only worsen as the global population expands and that containment is a sad joke.

Before they commit themselves to another decade in a high-rise, they might wonder when the next pandemic virus catches the red-eye to Los Angeles. If one major tenant in five ponders that eventuality too long, America’s central business districts are in for forty miles of bad road. (In 2019, Tropical Storm Imelda brought Houston its second 1,000-year flood in just two years. Do you think a few Texans moved their offices to higher ground?)

Yet offices aren’t going away. Companies, large and small, will always need offices. The question for office tenants will be: Where is that higher ground?

That decision will be complicated by another factor. While the other real estate disciplines have been wrecked by the virus itself, the office market has suffered a body blow from the cure: the accidental discovery that many businesses are 90 percent efficient with their employees working from home.

Add this discovery to the knowledge that the safe bet for the foreseeable future is the avoidance of small enclosed spaces—notably, elevators—and that the office market is now awash with millions of feet of sublease space. What do you have? A working recipe for serious vacancy.

The office landscape is about to be remade. By John E. McNellis, for The Registry.

The disaster came in two phases: first, the brick-and-mortar meltdown, then Covid-19. Read...  Shares of Mall REITs Jumped 12% Today, But Have Collapsed So Far It’s a Barely Visible Blip

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  99 comments for “Commercial Real Estate in the Plague Year: The Office Tower Landscape is About to Be Remade

  1. 2banana
    May 28, 2020 at 11:17 am

    Some thoughts.

    The NYC subway never shut down. Literally, a horizontal elevator open to all the public and homeless.

    Elisha Otis is generally credited with making elevators popular, after getting no orders for years, at the 1853 New York World’s Fair.

    At the New York Crystal Palace, Otis amazed a crowd when he ordered the only rope holding the platform on which he was standing cut. The rope was severed by an axeman, and the platform fell only a few inches before coming to a halt. The safety locking mechanism had worked, and people gained greater willingness to ride in traction elevators; these elevators quickly became the type in most common usage and helped make present-day skyscrapers possible.

    • LeClerc
      May 28, 2020 at 6:00 pm

      NYC now has a limit of 1 person at a time in an elevator. Where will people wait for a ride, and for how long? What about the subway?

      All tall buildings have freight elevators, right? Hello UPS, Amazon, Fedex, will your drivers spend hours waiting for elevators in each building?

  2. Gino
    May 28, 2020 at 11:19 am

    “Salesfarce Tower”

    • Gele
      May 30, 2020 at 10:27 am

      quotes not necessary, the company’s days are numbered.
      failsforce, kalesforce, talesforce? :-)

  3. MiTurn
    May 28, 2020 at 11:25 am

    Compelling argument. I have, at least subconsciously, been avoiding the elevator when going to see my doctor on the third floor. So, I guess I am an exampleto illustrate the point given. And I live in a community of less than 10,000 people.

    Maybe some mechanism, light UV lights, might mitigate the spread of the virus, or at least give people some sense of reduced risk in using elevators.

    • Apple
      May 28, 2020 at 11:55 am

      Copper may make a return as a design element in office buildings.

      • Tim
        May 28, 2020 at 12:01 pm

        Potentially silver compounds also, to a degree.

        Interesting article.

        Thank you.

      • SnotFroth
        May 28, 2020 at 3:24 pm

        Hear, hear. I’ve been advocating copper alloy touch surfaces for years. Hospitals should have done it long ago. It could have had a big impact on antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

        • Borderline Millennial
          May 28, 2020 at 5:58 pm

          I think cost is a major driver. Copper is much more expensive than stainless steel to use in many applications.

    • Joan of Arc
      May 28, 2020 at 1:00 pm

      Convert all the office space and retail space to apartments and condos and ease the housing shortage.

      • Cas127
        May 28, 2020 at 2:23 pm

        Joan,

        Hope this is possible, but a fair number of industry pros have said that the amt of renovation rqd to turn into apts/condos is so large that it is almost cheaper to start from scratch.

        I hope that is wrong – the rise in rents has been very bad.

        But, even if converted to apts…wouldn’t apt tenants be as afraid of C19 as office tenants?

        (The article seems a bit excessive on the issue of C19…the trend in the fatality rate has definitely been downward, with aged retirees being by far the most vulnerable…the article seems to studiously ignore these factors)

        But I do hope the author is right about telecommuting…the NY/LA/SF obsession of hiring decisionmakers is by far the driving force behind the most excessive rent increases.

        For decades, a number of corps have rather idiotically remained excessively centralized in a tiny number of metros – look at the number of Fortune 500 HQs in NYC…which is a rather miserable place to live unless you are are near the highest rungs of the corporate hierarchy.

        • Dave
          May 29, 2020 at 6:02 am

          Just like everything else, people will forget about the Wuhan Carona Virus unless there is a concerted effort to MAKE us remember.

          When it comes to business, everything is about the money. Therefore, at the right price that office space can be leased or repurposed. The change to get from ‘here’ to ‘there’ may be disruptive but it will happen and someone will figure it out and make a buck out of it.

          It’s all about the money for most people. Once the hysteria about the virus subsides, people and businesses will adapt and move on.

  4. Just Some Random Guy
    May 28, 2020 at 11:27 am

    I’ve been getting a lot of recruiter emails that say work from home to start, then on-site when things get back to normal. I don’t know how drastically things will change. So far companies are still looking for on site work at some point in the future.

    And I’m starting to think the entire “everyone will work from home from now on” stuff is going to be a nothing-burger long term as well.

  5. Willy2
    May 28, 2020 at 11:29 am

    – Just imagine what would happen to residential high rises and skyscrapers when there is no such thing as an electricity (any more) …… . Every apartment above the say 5th or 6th level would fall to value of ZERO ……..

  6. gorbachev
    May 28, 2020 at 11:29 am

    Not sure about the 90% efficient thing.Most people I

    know working from home are getting really good at making

    the starter for sour dough bread.

  7. robt
    May 28, 2020 at 11:33 am

    New York, Michigan, and California could ban the use of elevators for anyone over 60 and make them use the stairs.

    • FromKS
      May 28, 2020 at 2:42 pm

      I thought you couldn’t discriminate based on age. Maybe dedicate a certain window of hours, sure.

    • char
      May 28, 2020 at 4:36 pm

      I don’t see how a staircase does not have the same problem. Outside of the fact that i don’t see a lot of 60 year old overweight Americans climb to the 50 floor.

      • nick kelly
        May 28, 2020 at 7:13 pm

        I’d like to see this guy climb to the tenth floor right now. No doubt he could do it but every day, every time?

        Some trivia re: LONG stair races. In the early thirties, the new Empire State building (which would not break even on a operating basis until 1954) held or allowed a stair race to the top. The winner was a fireman who was on disability at the time.

    • robt
      May 31, 2020 at 7:55 am

      Forgot the /Sarc.

  8. Whatsthepoint
    May 28, 2020 at 11:39 am

    The real revelation is that anyone with half a brain can do their ‘8 hours’ of work in 4, excluding all the meetings to justify the manager’s job.

    • Thomas Roberts
      May 28, 2020 at 2:05 pm

      In many small businesses/offices, I would say to 2 to 3 hours is plenty. Ironically, some of the lowest level people, often the data entry people, are the ones who do the most actual work.

      It would vary by business, but, one big question is whether a typical person would screw around more at the office or more at home? This may change by person, over time. Right now, because, of the recession and pandemic, the typical person may be more motivated to work hard from home.

      Though, I would say working from home is the prelude to a massive amount of automation and a lot of outsourcing. Outsourcing, can include paying independent contractors outside of the company, but, still in America. They could for instance pay on demand for marketing/advertising and promotional work, rather than having in house people.

      I don’t expect the work from home switch, to benefit the average jo for a while, until then, there could be heavy consequences. Especially, as this recession continues, likely even after the pandemic, is completely resolved.

      • Cas127
        May 28, 2020 at 2:33 pm

        TR,

        The telecommuting = outsourcing link is very astute and under remarked.

        If a corp is going to let work be done remotely, why not go whole hog at once and rather than relo personnel to Wichita at a 35% savings, why not relo to Philippines at 75% savings.

        We might be caught between two dangers – excessive job concentration in a handful of the worst/most expensive US metros…and an accelerated loss of jobs overseas.

        I would like to say the US economy would adapt, but the stagnation of the last 20 yrs does not support that.

        • char
          May 28, 2020 at 4:45 pm

          I have the feeling that the American economy is f*cked and that every solution will make it worse. Especially the blame China solutions politicians like

        • Cas127
          May 28, 2020 at 6:13 pm

          Well…

          1) China did very, very heavily game the international trade system by using its domestic currency controls to undercut importation of foreign goods in the early years – leading to astronomical, historically unprecedented trade imbalances that helped to gut US employment growth. And China continues to manipulate its currency for trade advantage.

          2) That said, the China Confrontation could lead to significant US inflation, as that source of low cost goods is throttled back, US/Mex replacements take yrs to ramp up, and the Fed Foney Money (used to paper over the last 20 yrs of American decline) makes itself felt with a vengeance.

          3) None of which is to say that multiple DC generations are not equally responsible for being dead-at-the-switch for two decades as these trends got worse and worse.

        • Thomas Roberts
          May 28, 2020 at 6:43 pm

          Char,

          The Chinese economy is far more dependent on America and the West than vice versa. America is probably going to go through a painful period, but, the Chinese economy is probably going to collapse. America and the West did better before China was a significant part of the supply chain and they will do better after it’s not. It’s just the upcoming painful part, mostly do to the internal politics of America, that I’m worried about it. China is going to have far bigger problems than America will.

        • Thomas Roberts
          May 28, 2020 at 6:55 pm

          Cas127,

          The bigger problem than outsourcing overseas, that I’m worried about it is, is that rather than having full time employees. Companies will attempt to have mostly “gig” workers. Who will work from home, anywhere from maybe 3 to 12 hours a week. They would have to sell all their skills for far less than they are worth. They might even have to have 3 jobs for 3 set places, actually work more than 40 hours a week “though only paid for 30”, but, not get full time pay or benefits.

          The whole situation might be avoided if America, were to adopt laws similar to Germany, in that all employees are entitled to certain benefits and pay. Basically, some countries in Europe require you to hire people as employees and usually as full-time employees.

        • Wisdom Seeker
          May 28, 2020 at 6:56 pm

          The notion that telecommuting = outsourcing fails in a lot of situations because personal relationships, accumulated shared team experience and “corporate knowledge” have a huge impact on productivity. Then there’s the question of proprietary information and the legal protections (or lack thereof) when workers are outsourced to a different jurisdiction.

        • Thomas Roberts
          May 29, 2020 at 1:46 am

          Wisdom Seeker,

          Most jobs will be fine telecommuting, the issue is that for offices, even if only 1 in 10 jobs can be automated away and 1 in 10 jobs can be given to a part time gig worker. Who would then work multiple part-time jobs, replacing several people. Combined with the job losses of a mostly telecommuting workforce “I.e. less janitors and maintenance people”. You are talking about alot of jobs, mind you, not all jobs are office jobs. But, it could be enough job losses to crash the labor market “many/most employees will be paid significantly less, at least for office type employees, but probably many more as well” on top of those job losses. These job losses would be permanent.

          In the long term, the move away from overcrowded metros may work out well. But, there may be a painful transition period.

          I’m wondering, what the solution is? Considering, how ridiculous the economy is currently set-up, doing such a big change like this, only destabilizes it further. Ideally, until other big changes are made to the economy that will make it more stable, like redoing the healthcare system; the push for telecommuting should be cancelled after CCP19 is under control.

          As for automating office jobs, if telecommuting seemed like it would be the norm going forward, there would be a big push for software to enable and streamline the approach, it might not be obvious, but, jobs will be faded out or replaced in the process. Also all the company data/programs would be “in the cloud”, if it isn’t already. This push towards an automated telecommuting office, might also make it easier for bigger companies to out-compete and push out smaller ones. A push towards telecommuting will cause very big changes to America, which will be difficult to predict, both economically and socially.

  9. El Katz
    May 28, 2020 at 11:54 am

    The stairs are a less likely solution…. imagine people huffing and puffing their way up several flights of stairs and the droplets of virus being exhaled…. while holding the railing all the way.

    • Tim
      May 28, 2020 at 12:04 pm

      That would be a more efficient way to reduce the surplus population…

      • MiTurn
        May 28, 2020 at 2:04 pm

        Hey, I’m part of that surplus population!

  10. Apple
    May 28, 2020 at 11:57 am

    “there are some things more important than living ”

    -Texas’ Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick

    • Tim
      May 28, 2020 at 12:03 pm

      Like death and taxes, perhaps.

  11. Tim
    May 28, 2020 at 12:02 pm

    Nah, Mate, vindaloo…. :)

  12. Seneca's cliff
    May 28, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    How about the same “elevator effect” on the value and desirability of fancy high rise condos? Sure the loadings are not the same with people per floor lower and no rush hour, but would you think twice about owning one now?

  13. Stephen
    May 28, 2020 at 12:12 pm

    ‘The question for office tenants will be: Where is that higher ground?’ …..the ‘higher ground is in people’s home.’ Let your employees pay your electric, water, and sewage bills, and while you are at it, let the employees pick up the property taxes. The light has not come on yet with some of the baby boomer execs, but it will soon. (Btw, I am a boomer, and I have had to commute through some pretty heavy duty traffic in the DC area and in Tampa, so you don’t have to work hard to convince me to work at home.

    For those of you who think ‘working at home people cannot be trusted’, consider that assignments of work are pretty binary. You finish on time with sufficient quality or NOT. If not, you get fired. That’s the way it works in my firm. It does not matter where you do the work, and those you in IT know that teams are pretty national and global today. Commuting 2 hours a day to remote into a meeting from an office with global participants surely does not make sense.

    • Son of an Engineer
      May 29, 2020 at 11:00 pm

      I have read that the computer programs associated with work done at home have become masterful at spying on the worker and grading the efficiency and productivity of each worker. This will turn working at home into “a grind” like assembly line workers. The technology is already in place for this sort of thing.

  14. Brock
    May 28, 2020 at 12:31 pm

    The answer is, of course, malls. Businesses should use the empty malls.

    • memoaltan
      May 31, 2020 at 2:19 am

      Exactly- all malls should be converted for office-work and new offices built as such;imagine open spaces,stairs instead of elevators,ventilation at the top continuously cleaning the air..no more than 5 levels + parking
      i would gladly work there..
      The high rises in the downtown should be supplemented with scenic elevators on the 4 corners of the building and converted to home-offices
      in my humble opinion…loosing some units but necessary..

  15. Fallbrook
    May 28, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    Words like psyops, reset and existential do not begin to describe what is going on. See UNNWO.org for a broad perspective on what is happening. New world order is here.

    • The Rage
      May 28, 2020 at 1:12 pm

      Lol, New world order is a con of a con. It ain’t what you think.

      • Fallbrook
        May 28, 2020 at 2:56 pm

        It is what Central Planning thinks that matters, not us. Their “con” is our inevitable future unless the planet succumbs to the severely damaged biosphere first. All the guns and pitchforks on earth can’t stop what is coming and tiny elevators are the least of our problems. Check your premises and dig a little deeper.

        This is a very interesting article none the less, Thanks Wolf.

  16. Phoenix_Ikki
    May 28, 2020 at 12:39 pm

    Is NAR involve in spinning the commercial real estate market too or are they only concern with residential RE market? Cause if they are with commercial then prepare for those propaganda to fire right up that commercial RE will take a minimal hit just like residential according to Lawrence Yun latest “forecast” on residential..everything will be popping by end of this year.

    Yun comments:

    While coronavirus mitigation efforts have disrupted contract signings, the real estate industry is ‘hot’ in affordable price points with the wide prevalence of bidding wars for the limited inventory.

    In the coming months, buying activity will rise as states reopen and more consumers feel comfortable about homebuying in the midst of the social distancing measures.

    In fact, Yun is so bullish on the housing market’s ability to snap out of its lockdown funk that he is already upgrading his full-year forecasts.

    He now expects the median home price to rise by 4%, although sales will fall by 11%. He previously predicted that sales would fall 15% and home prices would remain static.

    • MonkeyBusiness
      May 28, 2020 at 1:06 pm

      I want Lawrence Yun’s “job”.

  17. Wisdom Seeker
    May 28, 2020 at 1:11 pm

    For what it’s worth, my own workplace has a single-person elevator and the safety precautions required are (1) everyone wears a good facemask and (2) we all wash hands immediately afterwards.

    That works ok.

    You could make a multi-person elevator reasonably safe by putting in a revolving barrier, similar to those used in revolving doors, to allow people to rotate in and out. Would require some cooperation and patience to get everyone through, but that could be a good thing to develop. With adequate vertical airflow, only surface contact risk would remain, and that can be handled by washing hands immediately after using the lift.

    • Cas127
      May 28, 2020 at 3:16 pm

      The hamster experiments have shown dual masking drops infectivity from about 65% (after a *week’s* proximate exposure) to about 15% and even the weakest unilateral masking drops and infectivity to 33%.

      Given how brief most social contacts are (in elevator or not), masking still seems like the most common-sense, cost-effective way to go.

  18. The Rage
    May 28, 2020 at 1:20 pm

    Lol, even normal germs mutations are repressed. You realize that this type of virus is like a cold the way it mutates. It’s why a vaccine i useless and indeed it will burn out.

    Not the best post.

  19. JC
    May 28, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    House the homeless finally, 1 rider per lift. Too bad REIT investors. That’s life when the scientist says pandemic can happen and historians say they have then you haven’t done your due diligence.

  20. DonPelon
    May 28, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    There’s an excellent burrito place just round the corner from Salesforce Tower…

  21. The Rage
    May 28, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    CRE was bloated. So what???

    Guys, between the I-95 and I-15 areas account for 60%+ of U.S. GDP. The economy was toast no matter what. Instead of millions dead, you have hundred of thousands dead. A new strain that goes through multiple mutations. See flu 1957, recession. Stop acting decadent.

    • Rcohn
      May 28, 2020 at 2:10 pm

      Combine those 2 factors and high rise office buildings are toast .
      Now it is obvious that most high rise office buildings are in the cities. If high rise office buildings are toast , then there are fewer reasons to commute to the inner cities . This results in less traffic and less pollution.
      It also reduced the demand to live closer to the high rises in the inner cities; thus residential prices in the inner cities and those in suburbs go down.

      • MM
        May 28, 2020 at 2:19 pm

        If the commutes to the inner city are replaced by commutes to spread-out office parks, then this could be more traffic and more (but more dispersed) pollution.

        But, separately, WFH is probably here to stay in a big way, and that’s a much bigger difference.

  22. Soupcon
    May 28, 2020 at 1:25 pm

    A good excuse for companies to download costs onto their white collar managerial class employees who will need larger homes/condos/apartments to accommodate their offices and all the office toys (expensive computers, highspeed internet, expensive photocopiers/scanners, expensive single use software, etc) the company wrote off as over head that was shared between employees. Yes, commute times and transportation costs are down but other expenses will escalate. Shopify and Google are funding $1000 of employee costs to furnish a home office but $1000 does not really cover the real expenses incurred.

    • Stephen
      May 28, 2020 at 3:54 pm

      I am not sure where your extra expenses are coming from. I have been working 100% remote for 2 months, and before that I was working about 80% remote.

      I don’t have any extra expenses other then maybe a little more electricity. We already have wide band access and all the other infrastructure. My company is paperless and of course, provides us lap tops and the accompanying gadgets. On the other hand, savings on daily commute in terms of gas and tolls here in the Tampa area are quite a bit.

      Plus I get more rest and do not have the stress of 2 hours on the road/day. I don’t see any disadvantages from WFH. My company figured out the advantages a long time ago and was one of the early adopters of WFH, especially since our project teams are generally global. Why would we commute into an office to participate in a Google Hangouts call with a global team?

    • char
      May 28, 2020 at 5:35 pm

      Expensive computers, expensive scanners? PC is $300 scanner is $50. But i don’t see a need for a scanner when all information comes trough the computer. Only expensive thing is “highspeed” internet. But i expect the price of that to go down as it is now a necessity. Besides it is likely cheaper than commuting

    • HS
      May 28, 2020 at 5:48 pm

      Very true as to the costs incurred. However, the cost of an extra bedroom or small extra space by the window where the chair used to be, is a small expense compared with removing 30 min or more commute each way and getting your life back.
      Secondarily, many city dwellers made the choice of living in a tiny apartment without a washer and dryer and no easy grocery shopping in order to enjoy the benefits that a big city offers such as shows, restaurants, and tons of opportunities to meet people and do fun new things. 2 years ago I seriously considered doing the same thing. Now, however, they are faced with paying horrendous rent, still without a washer/dryer or a convenient grocery, and being unable to enjoy the benefits of a big city. And you can’t get around the elevators. I think that a lot of people are reconsidering choices, and thinking about their next steps forward. Who in NYC is going to just move to Brooklyn, when it was hit just as bad as the city. If you can telecommute and fly in for a monthly meeting, why not move to Raleigh, or Tampa, or Denver, all of which are nice cities with good quality of life and the ability to have a more suburban lifestyle. You can have your own w/d. You can own a car and get your groceries. You can use your oven for cooking instead of for shoe storage. You can have your own little pantry with a stock of food. You can have an extra bedroom or a nook for your home office – at half the rent you were paying in NYC. Also remember that so many young people in NYC and similar cities rent without a real possibility of owning anytime soon. Renters can leave as soon as their lease is up.

  23. Bobber
    May 28, 2020 at 1:32 pm

    These guys that say they won’t touch an elevator will come to their senses when they hear about people working in the office and getting promoted. Pay to play. Nobody hands you a paycheck for cowering in a corner.

    Want to be safe? Take the stairs up, or go in very early.

    • chillbro
      May 28, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      OK boomer

      • Mike
        Jun 2, 2020 at 12:26 pm

        OK snowflake

        How does that feel? How about we keep the discussion at a higher level and not resort to pointless insults?

    • Stephen
      May 28, 2020 at 3:59 pm

      See my post above. Btw, many project teams are global today, especially in IT. Sorry, but there is no physical ‘face time’ with your manager in strict terms today, unless you feel like you need to travel to maybe the UK or India? I have worked in IT most of my career, so I have never thought that people have to ‘press the flesh’ to get ahead. When someone delivers good work, it is appreciated and they don’t even have to know what you look like! Btw, I am a boomer in my 60’s.

    • LeClerc
      May 28, 2020 at 6:04 pm

      You first.

      See you on the 43rd floor.

  24. Wisdom Seeker
    May 28, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Don’t know what “3/10,000” is supposed to mean here, but in NYC the numbers are 21,415 dead out of 201,051 confirmed infections in a population of about 10,000,000.

    21K / 10M works out to 2/1000, NOT 2/10,000. 10x worse than your number. And this doesn’t count the very sick who will need really long recovery times and may have permanent damage.

    And we can expect the 2 is an undercount (wait for the excess mortality data!) Furthermore, while the 10M is static, the number of deaths is still climbing and there’s risk of either a second wave or a mutation (or both).

  25. andy
    May 28, 2020 at 1:52 pm

    Well they completed the Saleforce tower (the tallest tower west of Chicago Sears tower) in San Fransisco just in time. Many more office towers were built in SF in just the last 3 years. I was thinking all this time where will they find people to fill these towers.

    • Petunia
      May 28, 2020 at 1:58 pm

      How come nobody cared about building a skyscraper in earthquake country? I wouldn’t think that was ever a good idea.

      • Frederick
        May 28, 2020 at 2:20 pm

        Petunia Actually high rise steel frame buildings are safer than most low rise masonry buildings in earthquakes They are designed to take the lateral movement just like the twin towers were designed to take the impact of airplanes

      • MM
        May 28, 2020 at 2:22 pm

        There is a discipline called “engineering” that does take these things into account.

        • Cas127
          May 28, 2020 at 3:21 pm

          Hmm,

          Where were they for the sinking, leaning Millennium tower?

        • andy
          May 28, 2020 at 10:23 pm

          Cas127,
          It would be ironic if millenium tower stabilizes and apts are 3× price just because it is 1 degree askew.

  26. MM
    May 28, 2020 at 2:13 pm

    Following on from Wisdom Seeker, the direct fatalities were always just the initial concern. The greater concern is that the large number of hospitalizations and ventilators needed would overwhelm the healthcare system, driving up the COVID-19 fatality rate and also increasing the fatality rate for all sorts of other acute health problems.

  27. AT
    May 28, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    I’ve worked from home for over 10 years as a consultant and product company employee in the software business. My current company has been all remote for it’s entire existence (over 15 years) and has a very anti-meeting culture. It’s amazing how much work you can get done in a day and still have plenty of free time when you strip away the time wasted on pointless meetings and commutes.

    • Paulo
      May 28, 2020 at 2:39 pm

      AT,

      I really liked your comment. I have worked at companies that had mandatory staff meetings built into the job description. You can only avoid them so long, the pontificating manager/owner telling everyone what they already know. Then, meetings nixed when people started to skip them and the owner/manager started to write memos instead. When he found too many memos in the garbage can he distributed binders to all staff to keep the memos in, and would check them to ensure memo binders were up to date. Yes, (you guessed it), if your memo book was not current you got a memo about it.

      He called it operational control. I called it, “I’m outta here”. Other than that, it was a pretty good place to work for the first 3 years, terrible for the next 2, and soul destroying thereafter.

      Anyway, liked your comment and attitude about work. Lets just get the job done and skip the nonsense.

      • Mike G
        May 28, 2020 at 5:15 pm

        Don’t forget to file your TPS Reports.
        Value-subtracted management.

  28. Paulo
    May 28, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    Wisdom,

    It is actually much worse than what you describe if you tally up the folks that need care but cannot get it due to the pandemic overload, or get past efforts made to flatten the curve. Little things missing like chemo, colonoscopies, surgeries, even simple lab work. Can you imagine waiting for cancer surgery right now? It would be beyond terrible, a complete nightmare.

    Wait until a few more months of ignorant vacationers exercising their rights to be free and do whatever energises the the infection rate.

    Great article. A very interesting viewpoint. I never take elevators myself, but then again cannot remember the last time I was even in a high rise? Being afraid of fire, (my neighbours burned up when I was 14…..5 kids and a mom died, the dad was held down by a firefighter when he tried to save them), the chance of me ever going into a death cube is somewhere between nil and none.

    Elevators? Think Bruce Willis in a remake of Die Hard. :-) Literally.

  29. edward donegan
    May 28, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    The homeless problem is now solved

  30. SteveK9
    May 28, 2020 at 3:01 pm

    I can only hope and pray that eventually we will get over ‘Howie Mandel’ (or maybe Adrian Monk) disease and stop acting like people we used to consider mentally ill. Germs come and go. We have a thing called the human immune system. Guess what, it was designed to fight pathogen, which it encounters by the millions. Try to keep in good health and stop cringing. I’ll be happy to join anyone on an elevator any time. And, if we are all working from home, we might as well come up with a new name for the species, homo hystericus.

    • nick kelly
      May 28, 2020 at 7:37 pm

      When the CDC team got to the clinic in Zaire where they were expecting to be briefed about Ebola, they found the entire medical staff dead on the floor. Brand new bug. Immune system no good. Once you’ve got it, medical treatment is 90 % useless.

      If we relied on ‘the human immune system’ small pox would never have been eradicated.
      That desirable outcome is purely the result of science, not the ‘design’ of the human system.

    • elysianfield
      May 28, 2020 at 8:16 pm

      “. We have a thing called the human immune system. Guess what, it was designed to fight pathogen, which it encounters by the millions. Try to keep in good ”

      Cool! Does that mean we will live forever? Guess someone should tell the pathogen….

  31. TownNorth
    May 28, 2020 at 3:07 pm

    There are also high rise residential towers, like the recently completed 82-story Steinway Tower and the 72-story 1 W. 57th St., both in NY. Apparently a couple penthouses in Steinway have private elevators. Maybe the risk will reprice the other units, as the height would make for a long elevator ride.

  32. Whatsthepoint
    May 28, 2020 at 5:08 pm

    It’s obvious, but when you spell it out for them you get the proverbial stone wall, deer in the headlights act. Cognitive dissonance much?

  33. c1ue
    May 28, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    What percentage of corporate budgets are devoted to the office space?
    Online searches say 10% of revenue; that seems high particularly if restaurant/retail is excluded.
    Doesn’t seem like a major factor especially if support costs and security risk increase, much less loss of productivity and/or collaboration.
    Then there’s the ego factor: how can bosses feel appropriately big shot when they’re working from home in their sweats?
    And as is noted above: once you work from home – it can be from the Philippines or Africa, much less cheaper states.
    Time will tell.

  34. Bruce
    May 28, 2020 at 5:56 pm

    SF Business Times latest issue this week mentions 500K square feet added to SF’s sublease market in last 2 months. more is undoubtedly on the way. I think there will definitely be a number of companies that encourage their workers to work from home. I could never figure out why all the tech companies in this latest dot com bubble needed to have so much office space. Rent savings are a decent size of expenses, after salaries of course.

    On the employee side, my wife is thrilled that she’s saving time, gas money and mileage on her car. I’ve read elsewhere that quite a few emp[loyees are happier with working from home rather than fighting commutes to work at the office. At her company, they are looking to cut their office space in half this year due to more employees (even before Corona) working 5 days or even 2 or 3 from home, instead of 5 at office.

    • char
      May 28, 2020 at 9:01 pm

      It is May. Working from home is still a new thing. But the main problem with working from home is that people need contact with other people

      • Wisoot
        May 29, 2020 at 3:33 am

        Meditate. We are all here. Be free. Remember before the government forcibly started programming your family – before tv and radio – you used to be a telepathic soul connected to the human consciousness. The religious programs were running in the background. Then you became their capitalist fodder and sheep toy.

      • Lisa_Hooker
        May 29, 2020 at 2:48 pm

        I was working from home 50% in 2009. When you say people need contact – you mean with the ones I was working with in Poland, Russia, India and Brazil. If it can go through a cable or bounce from a satellite your WFH job is at risk.

  35. R2D2
    May 28, 2020 at 7:02 pm

    Just wear a mask in the elevator.

    Everyone stand back-to-back (not face-to-face).

    Problem solved.

    • nick kelly
      May 29, 2020 at 12:35 am

      Sarc? Exhaled air won’t go two feet?

    • Lisa_Hooker
      May 29, 2020 at 2:56 pm

      “…stand out in the middle of the room. stand back to back. clasp your hands behind your heads. do not touch one another.” – George O. was always ahead of his time.

      You will also like – “The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power, pure power.”

      Things have changed. Now we have more than one Party. All with the same old goal.

  36. 728huey
    May 28, 2020 at 8:10 pm

    I agree in the short term and even intermediate term that this pandemic, even if an amazing vaccine or treatment that eradicated COVID 19 were to come out tomorrow, has basically imploded the need for office space, especially large high-rise city skyscrapers. I also think the work from home movement will only increase.

    Having said that, as other posters have mentioned, large companies could easily try to outsource this remote work to Bangalore or Manila or turn it into gig work. But even if these companies wanted to keep this remote work in America, they may not necessarily be able to permanently reduce labor costs in the long term. Sure, it would be much cheaper to let people work outside ridiculously high cost cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Boston, but where are they going to find qualified talent to work for them? There may be a handful of people willing to work from Podunkadunk, Mississippi or Comatose Coal Town, West Virginia, or Wasteland Prairie, Kansas, but the talent pool probably won’t qualify for most of their positions. Conversely, some people will relocate to more thriving smaller cities like Austin, Texas, Nashville, Tennessee, Santa Fe, New Mexico, or Bozeman, Montana, but that will create even more demand for people to move to those cities, thus driving up the cost of living and requiring a major bump in income. On top of that, one of the reasons most people like living in cities is because there is a vibrant community filled with diverse people and numerous options to enjoy one’s leisure time. Even after 9/11 people were proclaiming that cities would be deserted due to the fear of terrorism, but in fact there were even more people moving into New York City afterward.

    • char
      May 28, 2020 at 9:04 pm

      You still need training and meetings. Not many but enough to make middle of nowhere to difficult. IMHO working from home leads to more New York.

  37. PW
    May 28, 2020 at 9:20 pm

    Regardless of vaccine research (and the Gates foundation’s heavy investment therein – “Hey! Let’s resell them the same product over and over like an operating system for the body” – he said), current research on transmission methods suggests that *aerosols* are the primary method of spreading the disease and the simple act of changing out the air in a confined space may reduce the transmission potential considerably. So elevators have not be at death’s door quite yet. As a steel and glass building employee, I hope this is true.

    • nick kelly
      May 29, 2020 at 6:02 pm

      For a detailed rebuttal of the conspiracy theory that the Gates Foundation contribution to a vaccine is for his or his family’s profit go to Politifact and heading: No evidence Gates funding is for profit.
      The original source has even been flagged by Facebook as false, something it hasn’t done with some of the elaborate sites maintaining the moon landings were faked.

  38. RON
    May 29, 2020 at 10:02 am

    Like any and all virus, which mutate and tend to be seasonal the population at large needs to be exposed to less lethal intrusions. This is accomplished by taking elevators and stairs, meeting and greeting people without masks and staying as healthy as possible. Really just act as you did before the hysterical shutdown.

    • nick kelly
      May 29, 2020 at 6:07 pm

      Were you one of the home schooled kids whose parents didn’t believe in vaccinations?

  39. Jan de Jong
    May 29, 2020 at 10:45 am

    Ventilation. A continuous storm from floor to ceiling. Women better not wear skirts.

  40. Jan de Jong
    May 29, 2020 at 10:46 am

    Men neither.

  41. PH life
    May 30, 2020 at 8:28 am

    In Manhattan most of us take the elevator many times a day.
    I personally live in a penthouse so stairs are out of the question.
    We share the elevator almost always. And…. nothing happens.
    I personally never wear a mask.
    So….
    My guess is nothing will change. Because there’s no need to.

  42. NotMe
    May 31, 2020 at 5:22 pm

    Bring back the Pater Noster.

  43. Il Capo
    Jun 3, 2020 at 2:00 am

    Why not just make N95 masks and goggles / visor mandatory (and employer issued)?

    Don’t touch anything or add gloves and/or mandatory hand sanitization and we are good to go.

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