Certain Industries Likelier to Embrace Work From Home Long-Term

You work in financial services, real estate or tech? Expect more flexible office hours going forward, a new report says

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Work from home is here to stay, particularly for some industries, but physical offices are too.

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That’s one of the conclusions from a broad report from global investment house KKR, which tracked how the coronavirus pandemic has impacted cities and their residents. The report concluded that work from home will likely continue one to two days per week, in certain fields especially. But it’s far too soon to light a candle for the conventional office.

“Even technology companies, who were more likely to adopt flexible work-from-home policies prior to COVID, are continuing to commit to physical office space in large central business districts like New York City, as well as in medium-sized CBDs,” wrote Paula Campbell Roberts, KKR’s director of global macro and asset allocation and the report’s author.

That conclusion does suggest that the role of office space is likely changing. Companies may need less space, and may use the footprints remaining to focus on recruiting, fostering company culture, and collaboration rather than straight-up work, the report said. Industries such as law and finance are already seeing such space reduction and adaption. Meanwhile, as the KKR report notes and recent deals underscore, technology firms can’t seem to get enough office space.

In the end, though, the shift to work from home/remote work in response to coronavirus was broad and lastingly influential, according to KKR. Around 46 percent of U.S. workers have been able to telecommute during the pandemic, the report said, citing Bureau of Labor statistics. Certain industries, too, appear to have either been more hospitable to the switch or lent themselves to it due to the nature of the work.

In particular, financial services, technology and professional services workers were likelier to work from home, and, perhaps more importantly for the future of office leasing and sales markets nationwide, are likelier to continue to do so. At least 70 percent of employees in all three industries were able to telecommute during the pandemic, the KKR report said. In finance and tech, the figure was around 80 percent. The shares drop off dramatically for fields such a health care, education, public administration, and manufacturing.

The KKR report, too, said that business leaders are leaning into—or are resigned to—work from home more in those industries where it already works. The report, citing a UBS Evidence Lab analysis, found that 53 percent of 450 C-suite executives surveyed in August expect at least some increase in work from home during the next 12 to 24 months. A full 27 percent expect to significantly increase the number of their employees working from home over the next two years; and a similar share anticipate some increase.

“Work from home expectations skewed higher in the ‘financials and real estate’ as well as ‘IT  and telecommunications’ sectors,” the KKR report said. “If we look to countries where normal economic activity has resumed—e.g., Germany—companies have already adopted these types of policies.”