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Apple Together, a group that consists of 1400 current and former employees at Apple, sent an open letter to the computer giant to voice its opposition to forcing workers back to the office when tasks can be accomplished from home.

“Stop treating us like school kids who need to be told when to be where and what homework to do,” the letter read, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The paper reported that the note was in response to the company’s announcement that it will begin to require employees to come back to the office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays.

Ian Goodfellow, a director of machine learning at the computer giant, announced that he is leaving the company due to the return-to-work policy. Zoë Schiffer, a reporter for The Verge, tweeted on Saturday a note that Goodfellow sent to his staffers.

“I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,” he wrote.

Apple Together said working from the office is counterproductive for most employees because they have to deal with heavy traffic in some cities which impacts their personal lives, energy, and availability at work, according to Ars Technica.

The Trends Journal has reported extensively how COVID-19 transformed the traditional workplace and how companies will continue to have a hard time convincing employees to return to their desks. (See “FACEBOOK: EMPLOYEES CAN WORK FROM HOME FULL-TIME,” “WORK-FROM-HOME: 21st CENTURY MEGA-TREND,” “AMERICANS: RATHER WORK AT HOME AND EARN LESS” and “BOSSES’ DILEMMA: HOW TO COMPEL WORKERS BACK TO THE OFFICE.”)

We reported last month that of the 91 companies surveyed by real estate consulting firm Cushman & Wakefield, 78 have adopted hybrid work models, enabling employees to be home a few days a week; the rest allow their workers to stay home full-time.

Apple is not the only tech company telling its employees to return to the office. Facebook, Google, and Microsoft have all informed employees that they will need to return to the office in some kind of a hybrid model. 

The Journal pointed out that many of these employees left expensive cities during the two years of COVID and now have to consider whether moving back makes sense.

TREND FORECAST: The WSJ, citing an ADP Research Institute survey of more than 32,000 workers found that two-thirds would leave their jobs if they were told that they would have to return to the office full-time. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that 35 percent said they would quit their jobs because they want to move to a new location. 

Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co. who has been a major supporter of workers heading back to the office after the COVID-19 outbreak, wrote in his annual letter last month that working from home “will become more permanent in American business.” 

He estimated that about 40 percent of his 270,000-person workforce would work under a hybrid model, which includes days in the office and at home, The Financial Post reported.

Airbnb, the vacation rental company, announced that its employees can work from anywhere and not have to take a pay cut. Shortly after making the announcement, it said the company’s career page received 800,000 visitors, a spokeswoman to the WSJ.

The paper pointed out that more than 14,000 of Google’s 166,000 or so employees requested to become fully remote or transfer to a new location and those requests are granted 85 percent of the time.

“We know our employees have many choices about where they work. So we continue to provide top of market compensation.

Thirty-nine percent of workers will not consider a job that forces them to commute five days a week, according to a Rippling poll we reported in “Remote Work: The New Bottom Line” (22 Mar 2022); 65 percent of workers would take a pay cut if it allowed them to keep working from home, a poll reported by Bloomberg found (Americans: Rather Work at Home and Earn Less,” 10 Aug 2021).

Of course, some of this is bravado; many workers already have returned to jobs they left during the COVID War.

However, enough white-collar knowledge workers have the leverage to push back against employers who want to return to a pre-COVID five-day office attendance scheme.

The irreversible trend toward remote work also strengthens our past forecast that commercial office real estate faces a shrinking market.

With the economy in recovery and the COVID threat fading, only 42 percent of office workers are in their cubicles on any given workday, as data above shows.

This indicates that the troubles for commercial office landlords will only deepen. 

Even if most workers will congregate at central offices on the same day, businesses already are shedding office space and will continue to do so, as we have detailed in articles such as “Corporations Continue to Shed Office Space” (13 Jul 2021) and “HSBC Endorses Remote Work Model, Slashes Travel Budget” (14 Sep 2021.)

In our “Real Estate Industry Update” of 13 April, 2021, we reported Fitch Ratings’ calculation that allowing the nation’s office workers to spend a day and a half at home each week would reduce office space needs enough to cut landlords’ profits 15 percent; three days a week would slash 30 percent from profits, Fitch said.

At the back of the line, after office occupancy shrinks and retail shops and commuter-dependent businesses close, are the cities themselves. 

Empty storefronts and less-valuable office towers shrink the tax bases cities need to pay for services—and fewer services make a city a less-desirable place to live, driving residents out (as happened during the COVID War) and reducing municipal revenues even further in a downward spiral.

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