Amazon and JPMorgan Highlight Unsettled Return-to-Office Debate

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Tech firms are embracing remote work and banks want people back at the office. Right?

Not so fast.

Amazon.com Inc. recently told employees that it planned to return to an “office-centric culture.” Just days later, JPMorgan Chase & Co. Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon said some employees would likely continue working remotely at least some of the time, with the bank perhaps having just 60 seats for every 100 employees.

The contrast highlights how tricky it is for investors to gauge future demand for corporate offices, according to a new report from real estate data and research firm Green Street.

While office demand is likely to go down in the U.S. -- perhaps by 15% overall -- different markets and industries could be impacted in surprising ways as companies respond to competitive pressures, according to the analysts.

“A key takeaway from the news is the re-enforcement that workplace strategy is not one-size fits all,” the Green Street analysts wrote. “Companies within the same industry may take drastically different approaches.”

As more and more Americans are vaccinated, companies are preparing to bring employees back to the office. Still, corporations are reevaluating how much space they’ll need after more than a year of remote work, with available subleases flooding the market in high-profile cities including New York and San Francisco.

“The degree to which hybrid work patterns are accepted post-Covid, and the degree to which space usage changes as a result, continues to be the most important topic facing the future of office fundamentals,” Green Street said.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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