Business

When will offices be full again? Maybe never, some executives say.

Many companies do not expect their workers to return to offices until next summer, and even then things may never be the same as before, judging by the comments executives made this week, highlighted in today’s DealBook newsletter.

On earnings calls, executives from Goldman Sachs said that about a third of workers in New York and London were coming in regularly; at JPMorgan Chase, it’s around 20 percent in both cities; and Citigroup said “a small percentage” of employees in North America had returned.

“Being together enables greater collaboration, which is key to our culture,” said David M. Solomon, Goldman’s chief. But Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan acknowledged that some working habits may have changed permanently, which “will ultimately reduce the space you need for your employees.” Terrance R. Dolan, the finance chief at U.S. Bancorp, told analysts that the bank will most likely “consolidate” its corporate real estate to reflect “the new horizon.”

Is that a problem? Steven J. Goulart, the chief investment officer at MetLife, said at a regulatory round table that the “pressure to de-densify” offices to support social distancing could support demand for real estate even if buildings aren’t as full as before.

And as executives conduct more business remotely, going back to in-person meetings and pitches seems less urgent. Natarajan Chandrasekaran, the chairman of Indian conglomerate Tata Sons, said in an interview with The New York Times that he used to fly from India to the United States to pitch a $50,000 project. But recently, he said, his firm’s consultancy business closed $2 billion worth of deals in “five or six Zoom calls.”

There are other perks from working at home. BlackRock’s Laurence D. Fink is excited about what employees could do with the time they save on daily commutes. “They could spend two hours improving their health by exercising,” he said on a conference call. “They could spend two hours more in building a deeper, stronger, more resilient family.”

Paul Draovitch of Duke Energy said at an investor event that working from home was “not without risks,” but also brought certain benefits: “When my Pomeranians walk into the room, it’s really a pleasure.”

Ephrat Livni contributed reporting

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