New Yorkers love working from their shoebox apartments
- The average NYC office worker plans to cut their office time by 49%, per remote work expert Nicholas Bloom.
- The city's economy may take a few hits, but he said the city "will continue to thrive."
In New York City, life in a 702-square-foot apartment beats life in a skyscraper's cold cubicle any day.
The average office-working New Yorker plans to cut their office time by 49%, Stanford economics professor Nicholas Bloom said at a conference at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York on Thursday, as first reported by Bloomberg. While that means less money flowing through the city's economy, Bloom said the city "will continue to thrive."
Less office time also means the city's workers plan to shell out just half of the $12,561 they spent to go into the office annually pre-pandemic, Bloom said. He added that NYC might lose 5% to 10% of its city-center population, which could bring down the value of real estate in the area. With office occupancy currently at just 36%, New York City Mayor Eric Adams has been pushing workers to return to the office, arguing that "work from home" policies aren't economically sustainable.
But most companies have no plans to drastically reduce their office space, since many workers favor a hybrid approach in which they come into the office Tuesday through Thursday, Bloom said.
"It's not cataclysmic," he said. "New York itself is in reasonably good shape."
That's partly because hybrid work still requires employees to live within commuting distance — it might just be a bit further away now that it's not part of the everyday routine. Consider the 20,000 Manhattanites who moved to Brooklyn between March 2020 and February 2021, per USPS data. It's evidence of how the era of remote work has moved the city's borders to the edge of the metro area, a reflection of an expanding regional labor market.
"For places like New York or San Francisco, if you want to have access to the types of careers and jobs and employers that are there, you still need to have a physical presence in the metro area," economist Enrico Moretti told Bloomberg's Justin Fox last September. "Maybe not next to your employer, given that you don't have to commute every day, but in the same metro area."
What remote work has done is reimagined city life by giving more workers more flexibility, shifting the spotlight away from the office.
Urbanism expert Richard Florida told Insider a year ago that big cities would thrive in the era of remote work, correctly predicting a resurgence as vaccines rolled out. He said post-pandemic cities will be reshaped and revived by a newfound focus on interpersonal interaction that facilitates creativity and spontaneity.
"Even as offices decline, the community or the neighborhood or the city itself will take on more of the functions of an office," he said. "People will gravitate to places where they can meet and interact with others outside of the home and outside of the office."
Because as freeing as remote work is, New Yorkers need a reason to get out of their shoe boxes in the sky.