“The skyscrapers and office buildings in the city centers that used to be our most valued real estate have become places people avoid out of fear of infection,” Bloom said. “I don’t see people growing comfortable with packed subway trains and elevators, and firms aren’t going to want to open and close every time there’s a wave.” “It’s the fear of the virus that keeps people at home,” said Sven Smit, senior partner at McKinsey & Company and co-chair of the McKinsey Global Institute. He added that while it was too early to be certain the shift would stick, “the tendency [for longer-term change] is there.”
Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” he says.
Which tactic worked best? Apologies and requests to switch to a private channel generally lowered virality, as long as they were communicated right away. Offering to compensate an unhappy customer had the opposite effect—a result that took the researchers by surprise. Expert opinion is mixed regarding the use of compensation as a service-recovery tool; it might ease a complaining customer’s frustration, the researchers say, but if companies suggest compensation immediately, other members of the community may see it as an opportunity to post a complaint in the hope of receiving something from the company themselves.
What if, just what if..
The truth, as I heard from many of the newly remote workers I interviewed, is that as much as our offices can be inefficient, productivity-killing spreaders of infectious disease, a lot of people are desperate to get back to them. At the Zoom “happy hour” at GoNoodle, when the employees talked about their newly renovated office, they sounded wistful. They yearned for the tricked-out kitchen, the plants and big dark couches, ideal for lounging. “We had this killer sound system,” Tracy Coats said, with a sigh. She’s an extrovert, she said, who longs to hang out with her “peeps.” “You know — we’re drinking coffee, or maybe, Hey, want to take a walk? I miss that.”
In this pandemic, the mask reveals far more than it hides. It exposes the world’s political and economic relations for what they are: vectors of self-interest that ordinarily lie obscured under glib talk of globalisation and openness. For the demagogues who govern so much of the world, the pandemic has provided an unimpeachable excuse to fulfil their dearest wishes: to nail national borders shut, to tar every outsider as suspicious, and to act as if their own countries must be preserved above all others.
The virus is proving an expensive house guest as it hits corporate revenue, profit margins, and balance sheets. As El-Erian points out, the three major components of global gross domestic product—consumption, trade, and investment—are taking a hit to some degree from the spread of the virus. Even before the age of the new coronavirus dawned, global trade had fallen last year for the first time since 2009 because of a tariff war between the U.S. and China and a manufacturing recession. Now the world economy is on track for its weakest year since the financial crisis as the new coronavirus takes its toll, according to analysts at Bank of America Corp. Global growth will slip to 2.8%, from a previous estimate of 3.1%, and the Chinese economy will advance at 5.2%, which would be the worst performance since 1990.
Offices used to be gulags, but at least they had a clear purpose. You wouldn’t hang out in a cubicle farm, let alone spend time there on the weekends. Then companies like Google came along and reinvented the rat race into something with purpose and, along the way, confused work with the rest of life. Now, your coworkers are supposed to feel like a family. Hierarchies have been flattened, conventional job titles replaced by ones like “wizard” and “ninja.” The vacation days are unlimited (not that you’d ever take them). And forget about work-life balance. It’s all about work-life integration. Why else would the office have on-site acupuncture, nap pods, and free dinner after 7 pm?
In a special edition of the Financial Times, with a dramatic cover wrap which was virtually blank but for the giant words “Capitalism: Time for a Reset,” its economics doyen Martin Wolf went out of his way to define it for readers, guessing they too had to be enlightened. In an essay which bemoaned stagnant wages and productivity, inadequate competition, and rampant inequality, he explained that rentier capitalism “means an economy in which market and political power allows privileged individuals and businesses to extract a great deal of such rent from everybody else.” The half-forgotten term is as old as Adam Smith, who first defined rentiers as capitalists who were able “to reap where they never sowed.”
In this age, we look up to billionaires. Well, another of those writing about how he became what he became.
Mr Schwarzman has little time in the book for the little guy. Other financiers wring their hands over the wealth gap between bosses and workers. Not him. He was a rare executive in America’s Business Roundtable not to sign a charter last month calling for an end to the shareholder-led model of capitalism. His private life appears to be one of lavish parties and glamorous schmoozing. Acknowledgments in the book stretch to 14 pages and he name-drops five American presidents, four French ones and China’s Xi Jinping.
Trust China to do the most bold things.
Chen Yalei, the financial broker, says Beijing is making a kind of offer to the cities in the Greater Bay Area that they simply can’t refuse. “Of course, there will be major shifts and, of course, some of these cities will lose importance while others gain ground.” But, he adds, at least for the time being, Hong Kong will remain indispensable, as the financial center of the Pearl River Delta and as China’s gateway to the world.
And afterwards? “The reformer Deng Xiaoping created a monument to himself in Shenzhen, and for his successor, Jiang Zemin, it was in Shanghai ” says Chen Yalei. “The Greater Bay Area is the project that President Xi Jinping intends to be remembered by in the history books.”