Connected & Ready

The geographic impact of remote work, with Steven Malanga

Episode Summary

For many workers across an array of industries, the shift to remote or hybrid work environments is likely permanent. But companies, workers, and governments are still trying to figure out how to address the impact. In this episode of Connected & Ready host Gemma Milne talks with Steve Malanga, Senior Editor of City Journal, about how this shift affects not just company policies and strategies, but the socioeconomic landscape as well. From the real estate market to city planning and design to the future of company headquarters, the impact will be significant. Although, some of the long-term effects and how businesses should respond might not be what you expect. Learn how Dynamics 365 can help employees at every level reason over data, predict trends and make proactive, more-informed decisions. Request a live demo today: https://aka.ms/AA8vns5 Thank you for listening to Connected & Ready! Do you have ideas of how we can improve the show? Want to recommend a guest for us to interview? We value your partnership and participation. Please drop us a note at connectedandready@microsoft.com. We would love to hear from you.

Episode Notes

Gemma Milne talks with Steven Malanga, Senior Editor of City Journal, about factors driving the shift toward more flexible work environments, the top remote work issues companies should be thinking about now, and some of the most exciting opportunities that major societal change like this can provide.

About Steven Malanga:

Steven Malanga is the Senior Editor of City Journal. He writes about the intersection of urban economies, business communities, and public policy. Steven is also the George M. Yeager Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. He is the former of executive editor at Crain’s New York Business, the author of several books, and has written for the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, New York Daily, and New York Post.

Learn more:

https://www.manhattan-institute.org/expert/steven-malanga

 

Topics of discussion

 

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Episode Transcription

Gemma [00:00:05] Hello and welcome. You're listening to Connected and Ready, an ongoing conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed brought to you by Microsoft. I'm Gemma Milne. I'm a technology journalist and author. And I'm going to be exploring trends around how companies are adapting to a disruptive world and preparing for tomorrow. We're going to speak to the innovators who are bringing products, operations, and people together in new ways. In today's episode, I'm chatting to Steve Malanga, Senior Editor of City Journal, to dive into the current trends of people migrating away from bigger cities for better quality of life fueled by remote work. We explore what motivations underlie this trend, where people are going, how businesses should be thinking about their corporate centers or offices, and ultimately how our cities and our businesses and of course, our way of life as a whole will be transformed as a result. Before we start, I want to thank all of you listeners out there. If you have a topic or a person you'd love to hear in the show, please send us an email at ConnectedandReady@Microsoft.com. We're so thankful for you all, now on with the episode. 

Gemma [00:01:09] Steve, thanks so much for coming and joining us on the show. Let's kick off with a little bit of an intro. Tell us a bit about who you are, where you work and what you've been currently working on. 

Steve [00:01:18] Sure. I am a Senior Editor of City Journal, which is a magazine, largely as it sounds about cities. Spent a lot of my life as a financial journalist writing about businesses and what I would call the intersection of the businesses and government. And a lot of that has to do with economic development. It's about how cities attract companies where companies decide to locate. And so that's been a big part of the last 20 years of my life. 

Gemma [00:01:46] Well, this is obviously a really - always been a pretty relevant topic. But I think particularly this last year, considering what's been going on in the world, we've been seeing some pretty massive shifts in the way that we all live and work and some of which, which I think for a lot of people will stay, others not so much, as you're going to dive into today. So from your perspective, what impact have you seen for how this has impacted people and where they want to live? You know, is it true that there's this new migration trend happening with people leaving the biggest cities, or is that just kind of talk? 

Steve [00:02:18] It's important, actually, for context to understand where we're coming from. America has long been a very, very mobile country. The 20th century people moved for jobs. They moved where there was opportunity. However, in the last 20 years, we've seen probably less mobility in America than we had seen in the previous hundred years. There are a lot of explanations for this having to do with certain places became sort of like superstars, if you will, and everybody tried to go there and cost became too high. And so there are actually studies about looking at how people decided to stay in places that weren't growing economically because it was more affordable. But in the process, they weren't seizing opportunity because they were afraid they wouldn't be able to afford it. So before the pandemic, we actually saw this slowdown in mobility. Now, of course, with the pandemic, we've seen the exact opposite. Once people saw, number one that that they could work remotely and the technology has been bringing us there for the last 30 years, at least, even though we weren't going along with the technology, but we were being readied for it, even though we didn't realize that was happening. And then when it became clear to people that perhaps these lockdowns were not going to be short lived, that companies were saying it would be a while before you get back into your office, people started making other decisions to move. And so we've seen some really extraordinary numbers at one point, really at its height, maybe about forty five percent of people who were working so that they were actually working remotely. That's probably down to about twenty five percent now. But what's really important is that both people, meaning workers, but also companies, have largely said they're in favor of this. Now, America is a very big country and this is a very big transformation. So, of course, we're not talking about everyone, but we're talking about enough people. We've seen enough people move temporarily outside of big cities like New York, and we've seen enough changes in the way people work to imagine that this trend is going to continue. And we're seeing a lot of cities start to, I guess you say, market themselves to take advantage of this. So they're taking it seriously, too. 

Gemma [00:04:24] So tell us a bit then, what you think the sort of human motivations are behind this shift, because you talked about before this idea of people staying in one place, but not, I guess, seizing the opportunity, as it were, of the city because of affordability. Now, there's been this, in some ways, temporary shift because of the reality of what's going on with the pandemic. Me, myself, I moved away from a city I used to live in London. I now live in a different city, but it's a much smaller one up in Scotland. And that has been fueled from this last year's, you know, situation. So, of course, everybody has their own reasons. But what do you think are kind of the main human motivations to this idea of wanting to get away from, I guess, this idea at least of opportunity? Or is it just because now opportunity shifted because of remote work. Something more than that? 

Steve [00:05:12] Well, I would say flexibility number one. Flexibility has given us the opportunity to essentially work in the kind of work we want to do in the place where we want to work. Before that, people often made concessions and companies had to make concessions. I've been doing this for a long time. I can remember back in the 1990s, for instance, there were companies like JC Penney is a good example, a big company that was located in New York City that moved out of New York City because they could not convince their workers from around the country who they wanted to promote to come into New York City. They had trouble getting people to come because it was too expensive. So you had to make the choice. The big thing now is that what we're seeing is this kind of new level of flexibility for not everybody, but for a significant number of people that it's initiating change. You know, if you talk about things like the balance between work and life, people more and more want that. And what technology has done that maybe somewhat paradoxically, is actually given more people that right away, and in particular, what happened in the last year has dragged a lot of companies along, a lot of companies were either resisting or they were just taking their time about it. Forced to change, they've changed very quickly. And a lot of them are saying in surveys, we don't necessarily want to go back. At least half of all companies have said that they thought that working remotely is at least as productive, if not more productive. So that's a significant hurdle to overcome, which we've already seen in a short time. 

Gemma [00:06:41] We'll focus a little bit more on the sort of organizational side in a sec. But I think just to kind of go back to this human point as well, what do you think about, I guess, the allure of the city? Right? Because I think for a lot of people, this idea, shall we say, of the city, is where it's at and it's where opportunity is and so on and so forth, even with flexibility and technology over before the pandemic, allowing for some types of work to be done, not in the city or companies to make decisions because of money or so on and so forth, to not force or ask their employees to move there. You know, you talk about the cities kind of advertising themselves to try and kind of keep the spirit alive, shall we say. Do you think that perception of a city has changed at all, or is it, again, just this sort of momentary lapse as is it were or a zeitgeist, considering the sort of health situation that we're living through? 

Steve [00:07:32] Well, I think that certainly there's no doubt that that's a part of it, and that is something that generated temporary change. We saw, for instance, the innovative use of cell phone data, which showed that about 15 percent of New Yorkers left New York City last summer. And those are enormous numbers. They were living somewhere else, but that was temporary. What's more important is when you're forced into something like that, you see something larger. One of the things that you figure out as you go through life is that there's no single decision at one stage in your life that's going to fit all stages of your life. Part of what this has done is, I think, give people flexibility. What I mean by that is when you're younger, when I was younger, I came to New York City to work and it was very exciting. And I lived in smaller quarters and I hung out late at night and did all kinds of things like that. As people get older I can't tell you how many people I knew that I worked with as we got older then look for how do I buy a house with a backyard? Because now I've got like two kids running around my apartment. And so people's own perceptions of the city change as they change through life, you know, and then the next generation comes on and kind of takes their place. So what this has done is giving people flexibility. I mean, I know people, colleagues of mine who moved out of the city, but into nearby suburbs as their families grew larger. And then when this hit, they were renting places in the Hudson Valley for the summer or up in Vermont or moving to places like Nashville with the blessing of their employer. So this is just kind of added a new layer. And what it allowed people to do is respond to their own kind of changing circumstances in life. You know, when you're kind of a single person in your 20s with a new job, you're not thinking about where am I going to live when I'm married with three kids? So that's an important part of the equation right now. Again, it goes back to that notion of flexibility, not just among people at any one time, but for one person throughout your life. 

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Gemma [00:09:57] So you mentioned early on then let's get back to the kind of the organizational conversation here you mentioned early on, a lot of organizations have realized or worked out or seen that they're sometimes just as if not more productive by having a remote workforce. Is this something that companies are kind of going, hey, maybe we shouldn't get back to the office? Or is there still this kind of push to get back whether for productivity reasons or because employees are wanting that sociability? Like, what's the sort of general perception of this idea of what we do once we are, quote unquote, out of the pandemic? 

Steve [00:10:35] Well, again, I don't think it is an either/or issue and it doesn't have to be to create enormous change. Surveys show, for instance, that about twenty five percent of workers who have worked remotely would like to work remotely, permanently. Surveys also show that a large percentage of companies think they could have remote work either several times a day or have a certain portion of their workforce. It might be 10 percent, it might be 15 percent work remotely all the time. Even if that occurs, it creates tremendous change in the landscape because you're freeing millions of workers to do things that they haven't done. You're giving companies the ability to save money. And that's a big part of this, OK? It's not just we can do it, but if we can do it, it helps us attract a certain kind of talent who wants to do this. And on top of that, it saves us money. Those are two pretty powerful things. So this is not an either or we're going to go from one to the other, but enough people want to do it and enough companies are willing to do it with at least a portion of their workforce. That could have a profound impact on, let's say, occupancy rates or how much we continue to build, how crowded the subways are, what a city's next choice has to be. Do we expand this subway line to handle new workers or are we looking to do something completely different? 

Gemma [00:11:56] So we spoke about the need for companies to kind of adapt to this new kind of options and choice the employees are going to expect moving forward, given especially now what's been shown as doable over the last year to some degree. But going into the specifics, what would you say are the top things or two or three things that companies really need to be thinking about doing or offering as they move into the future. 

Steve [00:12:21] So I would say number one actually is, though many companies were preparing for this in a way, even though they didn't know it just by upgrading their technology. That's number one. Everybody is looking at doing more of this. They turn to their technology department when it was necessary and said, can we do this? And they said, yeah, we can do it. But some of it is jerry rigged OK, but we can do it. Wow. We can do it. OK, now the next step is how do we incorporate this into our systems permanently? OK, because this is a big leap in technology and I think a lot of companies are now thinking about their technology from a completely different point of view. The point of view is not just how can our systems work best when everybody's in the office and a few people can work from home now and then? But how can a significant portion of our audience work from home? So I think we're going to see a lot of investment in technology, which is one reason why we've seen the stocks of technology companies just go through the roof. That just makes a lot of sense. The second thing, and once you understand what the technology is to understand, again, how many people can work this way profitably and how many people do you want to work this way profitably? The third thing is there's going to be a lot of experimentation because what we hear a lot of talk about is that people want and need human contact. And so companies don't yet understand what the right mix is. And the right mix is going to be different for different kinds of jobs. People in sales and marketing, or if you're in the nonprofit, in development, they say they want and need more of that personal touch. But people obviously who are let's say the idea people, the research and development, people need less of that. So companies need to determine exactly what percentage of jobs and what kind of jobs will work best. Right now, everything is done a little bit by the seat of the pants. The technology was there. We had to do it. It worked for some people. A lot of people said they like it. But what's it going to be like over the long term? So you have those, I think, three challenges for people, for companies, rather. 

Gemma [00:14:30] So what is, then from your perspective, what do you think the role of the of the headquarters of the office is going to be, whether that's post pandemic or just this general push towards more flexible, technological driven trends in the way people work? I mean, I'm thinking about so many companies that kind of compete to have the most amazing flagship offices, whether that's about getting clients in or whether it's about getting the best employees and so on and so forth. But of course, just a square footage to fit everybody in, so from your perspective, what do you think that looks like in terms of the role of the headquarters as we move forward with this flexibility built in? Because that's a part to plan right as well if you're going to be having this flexibility. 

Steve [00:15:13] So I think we've actually seen already a part of this in very expensive cities like New York and maybe San Francisco, maybe for the last 20 years or more, where the corporate headquarters, as you said, that kind of signature corporate headquarters is still there and the top executives are there. But many companies have dispersed other parts of their operations, back office operations, sales operations to other places in the country, some of those choices they've made based on costs alone. But in other cases, they've made it based on maybe where their customers are and so their tech department or their sales department could be somewhere else. So I think we're going to see more of exactly that kind of thing. There's still going to be the corporate headquarters, but it's going to be smaller relative to the size of the rest of the country. The thing that I think is interesting is whether we will see this continued growth of what you call satellite offices. Let's put all our tech over here, or whether instead we just disperse all of those people to where they want to live. The other thing is for all of these operations, there's a certain percentage of workers, the companies, I think are going to say you can just work full time somewhere. Now, it might be that they identify certain jobs or certain categories of jobs. But the other thing is it might simply be that as they recruit, if they recruit a person they really want or people they really want, and the person says to them, well, I'm really not interested in moving to New York that they can say now, OK, well, you can work remotely. And I think the recruiting of talent is a very important point in all of this, because, again, in my time, I've seen a lot of people say about a place like New York City or San Francisco, I don't want to move there or I don't want to move near there. But I'd really love this particular job. And I think companies will have more of an option to say to these people these days, you know, you can be part of a remote workforce. 

Gemma [00:17:00] Do you think that then there is still going to even be, you know, as we move even further forward, right. And maybe this flexibility, everything becomes more of a normality as accelerated by covid or over the past couple of years, whichever is the biggest driver, is there still going to be a need for this flagship central office, as do you think that's still important for companies? 

Steve [00:17:22] Well, so far, I think only a few companies have talked about and there tend to be smaller companies going completely virtual, if you will. And let's face it, many companies out there, they're all stuck with leases. So they're not just like running away from these leases right now. And I think it's almost too much of a change in a strategy for a whole generation of corporate leaders who grew up in one frame of reference to completely just forsake that. You know, every time we hear of a company go to saying, you're going to go completely virtual, it becomes almost like news. So I think that this will be a generational shift. However, the pandemic is clearly accelerated that shift so that even people who are running companies now that grew up in a different mode are understanding that this is a change that makes sense for them. 

Gemma [00:18:08] So what has been the change then from the company perspective so far over this last year? I mean, you said a lot of them are already locked into leases, so they haven't really had that much choice. But are you seeing perhaps companies saying we're not going to renew, for instance, or if that lease is up yeah, we're lucky that it finished this year? We're not going to bother doing ours about restructuring how they use the space. Like what sort of changes have you actually seen happen already? 

Steve [00:18:32] Yeah, again, a little bit of all those, but particularly this issue of restructuring the space so people are not ready to give up their headquarters, OK. But what we have seen, for instance, is that a lot of companies, rather than renewing, or looking for more space, as they might have done in a growing economy, have said to their current landlords, well, we're going to stay here, but you need to give us a deal and we want to re-design our offices for this remote environment. I mean, look, in New York City, at the height of the pandemic, it was estimated that only about 15 percent of office workers in all those towers in New York, only about 15 percent of those towers were occupied. So 85 percent of that enormous workforce was doing work somewhere else. So what people are saying right now is we're going to stick to what we're doing right now, but we want to redesign. We want to spend less on it because we have the leverage now to do that. And we'll have to see the kind of impact that has on everything from construction, let's say, investment in infrastructure and how that changes based on or might change based on what companies actually start doing. 

Gemma [00:19:43] Yes, that's what is going to be our next question is how was that changed from a city planning perspective? Right? You mentioned earlier on the idea of extending railway lines or roads or I'm even thinking about things like I mean, in London, there's a, a small shop where you can get a nice lunch every 10 meters in the places where there is a lot of office buildings. Right? And I can imagine a lot of those will disappear and who knows what they'll be filled by. So what's been the sort of changes or at least discussions of change? Because, of course, it is still early days from a sort of city perspective and a sort of local government perspective around looking at what's coming next and going well how to we react to this? How do we think about planning and designing cities that make sense for this more flexible approach to work? 

Steve [00:20:28] So that, too, depends upon who you are as a city. I think that there are many smaller and mid-sized cities which see this as an opportunity, and they are already actively trying to attract remote workers. They're saying come live here. I've written about some cities which even before the pandemic, were actually offering workers incentives to come and live and work remotely in their cities. Tulsa, Oklahoma, you can get ten thousand dollars in relocation fees if you are a remote worker in a certain industry and you will relocate to Tulsa. Savannah, Georgia, is offering you two thousand dollars in relocation fees. The reason this is important is some of these places have learned or understood that traditionally what you try to do is you attract companies and then companies bring with them business. And let's say you're about, I don't know, a company that makes products or services that are sold around the world and that money then comes back to your city. Now, cities are realizing if you just actually attract people and their salaries, you're doing the same thing. New Orleans is a good example. They have a project going on there that's designed for remote workers. It's a living space and they want to attract two hundred and fifty remote workers. Well if these workers are all making, let's say, high five figures or six figures, that's millions of dollars of new income that you are pulling into your city, new local GDP. So there's a new formula here, right? It used to be attract the company and their workers and the revenues and that increases your local GDP. Now, what you're doing is attract the workers and their salaries and their income and their spending, and that increases local GDP. So that's a whole new formulation. And that, I think, is probably the biggest change because for years, cities and states have been in almost a at times counterproductive war to attract companies. And it's like a war of incentives and so forth. And it was kind of winner take all situation. And now they're switching to attracting people. And by the way, for years there were experts in economic development who say that we should be doing this anyway. It always sounded kind of controversial. But the idea was, rather than worrying about funding, you know, let's say new developments in cities, we should really be putting the money towards people rather than through projects and institutions and companies. 

Gemma [00:22:58] So you mentioned cities almost advertising themselves, whether it's about trying to get people to stay or whether it's about attracting new people and coming up with these new schemes to actually reward people for moving there, whether they're remote or other. But what would you say again, going into the sort of the specifics? What would you say are the things that cities really need to be thinking about doing or offering that really is going to attract people to stay or to come? 

Steve [00:23:23] Well, first of all, they're thinking about this already. It's money. That always helps right. And, you know, we're starting to see people take incentive programs and reorient them from very specific corporate incentive programs to people incentive programs. And it's a little bit shocking to do that. They're somewhat controversial. Oh, my God, you're going to offer people money to come and live here, moving expenses to come and live here. Isn't that a big risk? So that's number one. And that's a fundamental change because you have this gigantic economic development infrastructure that exists in many cities, in many states, and now you want to change that completely. And a lot of the people running those programs, that's going to be a big shift in their outlook too. Some people are leading the way and so often is the case, when those places are successful, other people will simply start imitating them because they feel they have to. The second thing is that with that in mind, you have to, if you will, take stock of your attractions as a city and as a region. Previously, what you're doing is you're saying to companies, you know, if you come here, look, we can build you corporate space at a great price. We have a good airport. We have a great corporate park over there. Those kinds of things were oriented towards the company. Now you're saying things like what kind of restaurants do we have here? What kind of hiking trails do we have here? And now you're promoting that as economic development to people. It's not just a minor thing that you're saying to people. It's a larger thing, you know, so that really changes the orientation, especially because people who are going to come and work remotely in a city who have that kind of an option, ok if they're going to come to your city, you are now competing against other nice places, other cool places, if you will. So that's a very, very different orientation. And I think it's actually probably a bigger leap for people who in cities and officials and economic development officials to make that change maybe than even the companies making the change to moving to remote work. 

Gemma [00:25:17] What does this mean, then, for people who are the types of jobs that aren't remote? Right. I mean, we talk a lot about, you know, we've all gone remote because of Covid and so on and so forth. But I think most of the people that post interviews and make interviews and get interviews and interviews tend to have desk jobs or media jobs or a jobs that can be remote because of the nature of what we do is sitting at a laptop, as we all know, countless more jobs that are not the sort of thing that have been quite so easy to switch to remote and in fact, almost can't. What does it mean for those kind of people? I mean, I'm thinking about if you're having cities trying to track these arguably high net worth people to come and work remote. What about everybody else? What does that shift look like to them? 

Steve [00:26:00] You know, this is interesting because this also depends upon where you are. Let's take an industry and place. Alright one would be like restaurant workers and restaurants. Right? You can't do that remotely, you can't eat remotely. Right? But if you're in one of these cities, Savannah, Tulsa, Bentonville, OK, and you are successfully attracting a whole other category of worker who's also a consumer, now suddenly that begins to change your restaurant market. So that's actually an opportunity. As cities attract workers in ways that they couldn't previously, they're likely to start then bringing in those service industries that serve this new marketplace. So that will change those migration patterns, too. And I said, I use the restaurant because, you know, it was a big theme, the idea that superstar chefs were leaving New York to go to other places because it's just too expensive to make it in New York. So you're going to see that kind of a migration, too, because the thing is, there's two kinds of a local economy. One is the workers who are working and either selling products around the world or working for remote companies. And in either case, they're bringing money from other places into this economy. Once that money comes there, OK, there's an opportunity. Someone has to serve those people. There's suddenly more money in that economy. So that actually will influence those decisions, too. So I would expect to see, for instance, new kinds of retailing and restaurant and tourism in places like this that are becoming the focus of remote workers. 

Gemma [00:27:38] So this has been a question then I think follows on quite nicely. There's something that I guess is being discussed in the comment pages and the pondering pages of the media for years, as you know, is this the end of the big cities? Is the end of London or New York or Paris or Tokyo because of something that's just recently happened or whatever? And but this is a very big shift that feels quite different, perhaps to either zeitgeist or cultural trends that perhaps have shifted people away from or even economic trends that have shifted people away from cities in the past for various reasons. Long term, and I'm not talking just post Covid, long term with this different kind of technology readiness, this different kind of approach to work. Do you think we're still going to have these kind of aspirational, shall we say, cities that people kind of look to and go-that's where it's happening, that's where it is? If you're already starting to think about companies not necessarily censoring themselves there? 

Steve [00:28:33] Yeah. So first of all, there's a branch of economic development which would always think about, you know, like what industries were in a city and therefore how could they kind of combine? And if you were a city that wanted to be like that, how could you do the same thing? The idea in all of that was it was the industries that counted. But the truth of the matter is, cities have always mattered because it's the people that counted and they came for opportunity. The idea that people were living/are living in kind of dense neighborhoods in places like New York, because they have to, I think, ignores the fact that a lot of people want to. I don't see that going away at all. The thing is, we had actually reached a point in the last twenty years, especially with the emergence of what some people call winner take all cities. We had reached a point where some cities were becoming so dense and so big that essentially, they were becoming maybe unmanageable. But at the same time, there was opportunity elsewhere. And you did start to see people moving you know smaller cities like Austin becoming, for instance, a tech center is a good example, uh cities like Denver, places in – Charlotte, in North Carolina. And what it was, was it wasn't so much the people were fleeing and going from one lifestyle to another. It's just that there was room for growth in both and particularly the concentration in some of these superstar cities had led to such high costs. It was like an escape valve was starting to be opened anyway. The pandemic came along. It just blew the whole valve apart. So throughout history, people have shown an attraction to big cities, that attraction not just economic. Some people want to live there, but clearly because of our technology and not just the technology of the computer, but the cars and, you know, transit and everything else, planes, people have so many more options throughout their life. And I just think that that's what we're going to see, an acceleration of choices within people, not just in their lifestyle, but also in, you know, where they work, what kind of companies they want to work for. People are going to have more choices, but it's not the end of the city by any means. 

Gemma [00:30:44] Fair enough. Let's bring it back then to the I don't want to say the practical, but maybe the smaller scale. And particularly thinking about that, people in various kinds of businesses would be listening to this podcast going, what does this really mean for the future of what we do and how we think about what we're offering to people to either who are currently working at our business or to try and attract new talent to come in? We've talked a lot. Flexibility seems to be the word that's come up again and again this conversation. But what do you think that means in practical terms for businesses thinking ahead? What is it that they need to offer, what's kind of different kind of structures, perhaps, that they need to start implementing to satisfy both this change, but also the fact that not everybody wants the same thing, right? 

Steve [00:31:26] Right. So I think if you're one of these businesses that can provide remote work, you've probably spent the last year making a judgment on what percentage of your workers can do this full time, what you want your office to look like after this. How many workers you'll allow to do this occasionally but will still want them in the office? And those are all different numbers. OK? And once you come to that conclusion, then a couple of things. It changes the way you recruit people. It also changes your –  a lot of your judgments about where you want your offices to be, how much office space you need, whether you want to actually consider if you look at the attraction, let's say, of smaller cities dispersing some of your smaller offices to some of these growing smaller cities where there's opportunity. So it changes a lot of things from recruitment to the design of your offices to where you locate your offices and then just what the mix is, because when 100 hundred percent of your office workers all worked in your corporate headquarters in one place, that's a very different scenario from what you have now. And then, frankly, if you're someone who is in an industry that can't use remote work, but you're a service industry serving other people, whether it's health care, restaurants, retailing, tourism, those are all in place people. If you're in those industries, then you start asking yourself, you know, where are the hot new places that maybe I need to be, you know? And you're looking for outlets. You start to look at places that are actually attractive to these workers or that are thinking about the future by offering these workers options. And so, you know, that I think becomes part of the strategy also. 

Gemma [00:33:02] Final question I want to ask you, Steve, is what is it that kind of excites you about all these trends? I mean, you mentioned that there's a lot of opportunity here and this change. And I guess there's always opportunity and change over the years. But specifically with what's going on right now, what excites you about the future of cities and kind of the way that we live and work in them? 

Steve [00:33:19] I think it's the human implications again. It's the choices that people are now going to have that previous generations didn't have, which allow them to do two things, earn a very good living maybe, but do so without having to make concessions that they've made before. Those kinds of options kind of like enrich people's lives. And that's really exciting. You know, it's something that when I first started working, it was only those options were kind of limited. Now they're much more expansive. And the one thing we haven't talked about, it also leads people all of this technology leads those kinds of people who can do this remote work after they gain some experience into new horizons, including the fact that it becomes much more easier for them to work for themselves then and to be self-employed and to essentially start to take what experience they learn, let's say, early on in their corporate careers and take that and use that to entrepreneurship itself becomes easier. And that's another stage. So all this flexibility is, I think, just exciting just on its own terms. 

Gemma [00:34:21] Steve, thank you so much for sharing so much wisdom and giving us a really, a really deep and interesting at the same time broad view on what's going on in the cities both now and in the future. Thanks for joining us on the show. 

Steve [00:34:34] Thanks. It was fun. 

Gemma [00:34:37] That's it for this week. Thank you so much for tuning in. You can find out more about Steve's work and indeed some of the broader themes we discussed today in the show notes. If you enjoyed the episode, please do take a few moments to rate and review the podcast. It really helps other people discover the show. And don't forget to hit subscribe and tune in next time to continue our conversation about innovation, resilience, and our capacity to succeed. 

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