Asia is at 80 percent and higher. U.S. office occupancy stands at 40 percent to 60 percent of pre-Covid levels, lower than Europe, which is at 70 percent to 90 percent.

Whatever you want to call it, the attitude of the world towards work appears to have changed during the long pandemic - and, generally speaking, not for the better. 

This new approach threatens to do long-lasting damage to economic growth and prosperity.

Until Covid, most employed Americans had workdays that followed a decades-old pattern : Wake-up shower, breakfast, commute, spend at least eight hours in an office or a factory, commute home and maybe enjoy a drink. Rinse and repeat every Monday through Friday.

The question lurking in the minds of many with whom I've spoken [ as well as my own ] : Has the world gone soft?

A recent Wall Street Journal report noted that in a Qualtrics survey of more than 3,000 workers and managers, 38 percent said the importance of work to them had diminished during Covid and 25 percent said it had increased. [ The rest said that it had not changed.]

MANY have resisted going back to the office, setting off a tug of war with their bosses. Why are companies so adamant about returning to the workplace? 

Every senior executive of the several dozen with whom I've discussed this issue believes that operating from home is simply less productive than being in the office.

Collaboration is harder, as is mentorship. That short stroll to a colleague's desk to ask a quick question or make a request becomes a laborious process. Working remotely ''doesn't work for young kids or spontaneity or management,'' Jamie Dimon, the chairman and chief executive of JP Morgan, said in January at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos.

NOR, he said two years earlier, does it ''work for those who want to hustle''. Many employers simply don't believe that their staff members work as hard from home, where distractions are many and supervision more difficult.

EVEN some Silicon Valley companies that were early to embrace remote work are changing their tune. Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce, noted recently that staff hired during the pandemic were less productive than long standing employees and speculated that lack of an office culture might be a reason.

And Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Meta, made a similar observation last week. ''In-person time helps build relationships and get more done,'' read the heading on one section of a long memo to his staff.

Then there's Silicon Valley Bank. Even as Covid faded, much of the bank's leadership team remained dispersed around the country, which hindered communication and collaboration.

The bank even warned in its annual report last month that it ''may experience negative effects of a prolonged work-from-home arrangement.''

The Essay Publishing continues. The World Students Society thanks author Steven Rattner, chairman and chief executive officer of Willett Advisors. He was also   a counselor to the Treasury Secretary in the Obama administration.


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