Per’s Pearls: Where are we 2-years after our 6-week lockdown and the great migration?

This is the first in a series where I’ll be taking a swipe at looking down the path a bit ahead and seeing what may happen through a techie’s lens. Argue with me, call me an idiot, but let’s try and keep to a data-driven discussion.

It’s been two years since we started our quick, six-week lock-down. Covid cases in the US have fallen almost as fast as people’s willingness to keep our lives on hold. Though the Washington Post today leads with a story of Europe seeing a spike in Omicron cases, EU regulators continue to relax their requirements. Timehop reminded me that two years ago today I stated we will remember this time as BC and AC- before and after Covid. I stand behind that statement, but more importantly, what does AC mean and look like?

Housing in Urban centers

Two years ago, the press was filled with stories of high-wage tech workers fleeing San Francisco for rural settings. So where are we with that? Though we did see rental costs in major metro’s (SF, NYC, Boston, and DC) crater by up to 30%, they’re now inching back to BC levels. Instead of rushing out to Wisconsin or rural Nebraska, untethered workers mainly stayed within 150 miles around the Bay Area, according to research done on Post Office and Census data. This, along with historically low-interest rates, explains the spike in housing prices in Sacramento.

Office Space and Work from Home

Will we go back to the office? Yes and no seems to be the safe answer. Most of my coworkers have been free of the office for years, so this is an acceleration of a trend vs a new phenomenon. Some people, not me, but some people like an office. Sageflo’s CEO likes to have a space outside of the home, but skateboard-ably close, to separate workspace from home space. We had the opportunity to build an office when we remodeled our house, so I can close a door and leave work behind.

What data shows us, is that people work longer and are far more productive when they can work from home. Part of this bleeds into the conversation being had (sadly mainly just in Europe so far) about contacting employees outside of work hours. VW made a big deal about this for their staff a few years back and Portugal has recently passed a law forbidding bosses to reach out after their normal working hours.

Finally, on this point, I feel it’s a sign of poor management to want to “keep an eye on my people”. Most jobs are metric-driven and very traceable through work tools. Instead of making people commute so you can eye-ball them, try hiring good people, pay them well, and work to make them understand what is expected of them and how you will be monitoring performance. But give them access to what they need to succeed, and that may be an office space or a good chair for the home office.

Trade shows

I’m a big fan of face-to-face, and I enjoy working trade shows, so there is my bias. But after recently attending eTail West (and prepping for Shoptalk), I likened the mood to the moment after a champaign cork pops. People were hugging each other and vigorously shaking hands. The bar at the JW Marriott turned into “the pit” where people crowded so close a friend stated,” I couldn’t see hands but could see shoulders, so that was too close for comfort”. Some of us are triple shotted with a floater of active covid (I took part in the January surge with a stuffy nose), so I feel very comfortable to mingle. Others do not share my endemic laissez-faire attitude, and that’s completely understandable. Provided this spike in Europe doesn’t hit the US too hard, I suspect it will be a banner year for events.

Wrapping up, I think we’ll see an absolutely fundamental shift in how we do business and I feel so bad for the students and newly employed young people who have had to start their careers under these extraordinarily weird circumstances. If anyone has tried to access mental health services (anticipate huge waits), if you moved to Springfield and discover that they don’t have decent Chinese food, or if you’re debating what to do about that huge lease you can’t get out of… try and take a breath, the market will shift like it always does. We’ll see a surge of new people going into mental health services, restaurants will open as the market for great food moves from the cities to the rural regions and maybe, just maybe, major metros will start converting office space into living space.

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Posted by percaroe

Despite my varied experiences, I'm a salesperson, and for me, that means solving people’s problems. Father of three/ Husband to one wife/ Marketing Junkie/ Voracious Reader/ Foodie/ improbable Yogi