I don’t know about you, but pretty much everyone who can work from home is currently working from home at this company, NZME. It’s been pretty much like that since the first lockdown two years ago.
Other than brief bursts of normalcy, then it’s like the parrot on the Marie Celeste, wondering where everyone has gone. For some people who have joined the company in the last 24 months, they have only ever experienced Zoom meetings and used their bedroom as an office. Which means for those working from home that when they need a coffee, they put the jug on. When they break for lunch, it’s leftovers from the night before or a quick sandwich, or if it’s the day before the supermarket, make a quick trip to the Hot Buns bakery around the corner for a special treat.
This had a huge impact on Central City and the many, many businesses that downtown supported.
It prompted a call from the head of New Zealand’s largest commercial landlord for businesses to please, please let their staff return to town. Scott Pritchard, managing director of Precinct Properties, told Commercial Bay, for example, which is a gorgeous new shopping area in downtown Auckland, that at any time before the pandemic there could be 8,000 people populating the area. right now. It’s around three 3000 right now. 5000 people less. Scott Pritchard says the consequences of empty desks are disastrous.
Shops, restaurants, bars, galleries can’t be mothballed for months until people feel safe again – and I really get what he’s saying. Some people have to work from home, for others who have the choice they prefer to be at home. They don’t miss the ride. They don’t miss parking fees. They don’t miss office politics. They like to work from home.
And others who work for multinationals must take their orders from their foreign masters. These CEOs have seen the devastation caused by the pandemic in Europe, the United States and Australia and want to avoid it here, so their employees have no choice. They must stay at home.
So when Scott Pritchard says come back, it’s not as simple as Oh, OK. And while I love downtown and the vibrancy of so many people in a confined space having a good time, does everyone get a sense of a good time? Do people have an idea of what has changed since the start of the pandemic?