At one point the target was the start of 2021. Then it was bumped to July. Now September is the new goal that many companies have marked on the calendar for bringing back office workers who have been working remotely for the past year.
Maybe. Companies are wary of setting hard deadlines, recent reporting by The New York Times found. Some corporations are reopening offices in the spring, while many are saying they will remain flexible, will stage returns over several months and will allow some workers to continue to work from home for a few days a week or more. As nerve-racking as it was for people last year to be abruptly torn from their desks, many people find the prospect of returning distressing.
Here is what some of the country’s biggest companies are telling workers.
Ford, which has more than 30,000 employees in the United States working remotely because of the pandemic, said in March that it would transition to a “flexible hybrid work model.” The company plans to let people stay home for focused work and come into the office for activities that require teamwork. The new protocol will start in July, when the company, which has its main campus in Dearborn, Mich., expects to gradually start bringing more employees back.
IBM, which employs about 346,000 people, hasn’t set a strict timeline for when its U.S. workers will return to the office. It expects about 80 percent of its employees to work with some combination of remote and office schedules, depending largely on role.
The bank, which has more than 20,000 office employees in New York City, has told employees that the five-day office workweek is a relic. It is considering a rotational work model, meaning employees would switch between working remotely and in the office.
The consulting firm formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, which has about 284,000 employees, is set to open one office in each of its major cities in May and all of its offices in September. Even when the offices are formally reopened, PwC will allow some workers, depending on their job, to work remotely at least part time.
Most of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees work at the retail giant’s stores, and a vast number have continued to go into work throughout the pandemic. It said on March 12 that it would start bringing workers back at its Bentonville, Ark., office campus no earlier than July. Its global technology employees will continue to work virtually “for the long-term.”
At Wells Fargo, 60,000 employees worked at bank branches and other facilities during the pandemic, but 200,000 more worked remotely. The company told its staff in a memo last month that it had set a Sept. 6 return-to-office target and was “optimistic” that conditions surrounding Covid-19 vaccinations and case levels would allow it to keep it.
Almost nine years ago, Bristol Myers Squibb filed paperwork in Ireland to create a new offshore subsidiary. By moving Bristol Myers’s profits through the subsidiary, the American drugmaker could substantially reduce its U.S. tax bill.
Years later, the Internal Revenue Service got wind of the arrangement, which it condemned as an “abusive” tax shelter. The move by Bristol Myers, the I.R.S. concluded, would cheat the United States out of about $1.4 billion in taxes.
That is a lot of money, even for a large company like Bristol Myers. But the dispute remained secret. The company, which denies wrongdoing, didn’t tell its investors that the U.S. government was claiming more than $1 billion in unpaid taxes. The I.R.S. didn’t make any public filings about it.
And then, ever so briefly last spring, the disputebecame public. It was an accident, and almost no one noticed. The episode provided a fleeting glimpse into something that is common but rarely seen up close: how multinational companies, with the help of elite law and accounting firms and with only belated scrutiny from the I.R.S., dodge billions of dollars in taxes.
infrastructure plan that the White House unveiled on Wednesday proposed increasing the minimum overseas tax on multinational corporations, which would reduce the appeal of such arrangements.)
For the three years leading up to 2012, Bristol Myers’s tax rate was about 24 percent. The U.S. corporate income tax rate at the time was 35 percent. (It is now 21 percent.)
The company wanted to pay even less.
In 2012, it turned to PwC, the accounting, consulting and advisory firm, and a major law firm, White & Case, for help getting an elaborate tax-avoidance strategy off the ground. PwC had previously been Bristol Myers’s auditor, but it was dismissed in 2006 after an accounting scandal forced Bristol Myers to pay $150 million to the U.S. government. Now PwC, with a long history of setting up Irish tax shelters for multinational companies, returned to Bristol Myers’s good graces.
sided with the agency after it challenged a similar maneuver by General Electric using an offshore subsidiary called Castle Harbour. The I.R.S. also contested comparable setups by Merck and Dow Chemical.
The Bristol Myers arrangement “appears to be essentially a copycat shelter,” said Karen Burke, a tax law professor at the University of Florida. Since the I.R.S. was already fighting similar high-profile transactions, she said, “Bristol Myers’s behavior seems particularly aggressive and risky.”
The next January, the company announced its 2012 results. Its tax rate had plunged from nearly 25 percent in 2011 to negative 7 percent.
On a call with investors, executives fielded repeated questions about the drop in its tax rate. “Presumably, all drug companies try to optimize their legal entities to take their tax rate as low as they can, yet your rate is markedly lower than any of the other companies,” said Tim Anderson, an analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company. “So I’m wondering why your tax rate might be unique in that regard?”
Charlie Bancroft, the company’s chief financial officer, wouldn’t say.
The more than $1 billion in tax savings came at an opportune moment: Bristol Myers was in the midst of repurchasing $6 billion worth of its own shares, an effort to lift its stock price. By January 2013, it had spent $4.2 billion. The cash freed up by the tax maneuver was enough to cover most of the remainder.
Tax Notes, a widely read trade publication, had also posted the document. When the I.R.S. provided a clean version, Tax Notes took down the original.
An I.R.S. spokesman declined to comment.
Cara Griffith, the chief executive of Tax Analysts, the publisher of Tax Notes, said the publication erred “on the side of not publishing confidential taxpayer information that was accidentally released through an error in redaction, unless it reaches a very high threshold of newsworthiness.”
David Weisbach, a former Treasury Department official who helped write the regulations governing the tax-code provision that Bristol Myers is accused of violating, agreed. PwC and White & Case “are giving you 138 pages of legalese that doesn’t address the core issue in the transaction,” he said. “But you can show the I.R.S. you got this big fat opinion letter, so it must be fancy and good.”
The current status of the tax dispute is not clear. Similar disputes have spent years winding through the I.R.S.’s appeals process before leading to settlements. Companies often agree to pay a small fraction of what the I.R.S. claims was owed.
“There is a real chance that a matter like this could be settled for as little as 30 percent” of the amount in dispute, said Bryan Skarlatos, a tax lawyer at Kostelanetz & Fink.
In that case, the allegedly abusive tax shelter would have saved Bristol Myers nearly $1 billion.
“so attentive to the scientific literature” and for not publicly correcting the president as he made outlandish claims about unproven therapies, whose disclosures may have been the most compelling.
As of Sunday, more than 548,000 Americans have died from infection with the coronavirus. “I look at it this way,” she said. “The first time, we have an excuse. There were about 100,000 deaths that came from that original surge.”
“All of the rest of them,” she said, referring to almost 450,000 deaths, “in my mind, could have been mitigated or decreased substantially” had the administration acted more aggressively.
In what was in one of her first televised interviews since leaving the White House in January, she also described a “very uncomfortable, very direct and very difficult” phone call with Mr. Trump after she spoke out about the dangers of the virus last summer. “Everybody in the White House was upset with that interview,” she said.
After that, she decided to travel the country to talk to state and local leaders about masks and social distancing and other public health measures that the president didn’t want her to explain to the American public from the White House podium.
Dr. Gupta asked if she was being censored. “Clearly someone was blocking me from doing it,” she said. “My understanding was I could not be national because the president might see it.”
Several of the officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci — who unlike the others is a career scientist and is now advising President Biden — blamed China, where the virus was first detected, for not being open enough with the United States. And several, including Dr. Redfield and Admiral Giroir, said early stumbles with testing — and the attitude within the White House that testing made the president look bad by driving up the number of case reports — were a serious problem in the administration’s response.
And the problems with testing went beyond simply Mr. Trump’s obsession with optics. Admiral Giroir said that the administration simply did not have as many tests as top officials claimed at the time.
“When we said there were millions of tests — there weren’t, right?” he said. “There were components of the test available but not the full deal.”
Chris Adams, 36, has spent the past year of the pandemic living with his grandparents in Wichita, Kan., and being “extremely strict” about social distancing. “I never went out,” he said.
But starting Monday, when all adults in Kansas become eligible for the coronavirus vaccine, Mr. Adams plans to find a vaccination site where there is an available appointment. “What I’m looking forward to is seeing my friends again,” he said.
Kansas is one of six states — Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas are the others — that are expanding eligibility for the vaccine to all adults on Monday. Minnesota will follow on Tuesday, and Indiana and South Carolina on Wednesday.
Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas urged residents last week to seek out appointments, saying, “With the anticipated increase in supply from the federal government, we must get every dose of vaccine into arms quickly.”
Even as vaccine eligibility continues to expand across America — nearly all states have pledged to make every adult eligible by May 1 — the United States has also reported an increase in new cases over the past week. About 75,000 new cases were reported on Friday, a significant increase from the 60,000 added the Friday before.
States in the Northeast have accounted for about 30 percent of the nation’s new cases over the past two weeks, up from 20 percent in the first couple of weeks in February.
In New York, there has been an average of 8,426 new cases a day, an 18 percent increase from the average two weeks earlier, according to a New York Times database. In New Jersey over the past week, there have been an average of 4,249 new cases reported daily, a 21 percent increase from the average two weeks earlier. And on Friday, Vermont set a single-day case record with 283 new infections; it is the first state to set a case record since Jan. 18.
For many, the vaccine cannot come soon enough.
Nicole Drum, 42, a writer in the Kansas City, Kan., metro area, cried on Friday when she found out that she would be eligible to get the vaccine as early as Monday. She started calling pharmacies and looking online for available appointments “within minutes of the news breaking,” she said.
Ms. Drum called about 10 places without success. She had more luck on a county website, and booked an appointment for Wednesday.
She said she planned to wear a special T-shirt saying “I believe in science” to her appointment. “I got myself a fun I’m-getting-the-vaccine outfit,” she said, laughing.
She also plans to take her 4-year-old son with her, because she wants him to see “how research and science and people coming together can really help stem these kinds of things,” she said.
“I want him to know that there’s no need to be afraid all the time of big scary things, because there are always helpers trying to figure this out,” Ms. Drum said. “While the solution might be something that’s a jab in the arm that hurts a little bit, it’s worth it.”
The Biden administration has expressed concern over the Chinese government’s role in drafting a forthcoming World Health Organization report about the source of the coronavirus pandemic.
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken suggested that Beijing had too much influence over the report, which is being compiled for the global health agency by a team of international experts as well as by Chinese scientists. Several of the Chinese scientists hold official positions or work at government-run institutions.
“We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” Mr. Blinken said in an interview that aired Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Mr. Blinken’s remarks come as the Chinese government works to take control of the narrative before the release of the report, which will explore several theories for how the virus initially spread to humans.
China has been criticized for withholding raw data and repeatedly delaying a visit by the team of W.H.O. experts. The government in January finally allowed the W.H.O. team to visit the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the first coronavirus cases were detected in late 2019.
At a briefing with more than 100 foreign diplomats from 50 countries on Friday in Beijing, Chinese officials said the government had been transparent.
W.H.O. officials have acknowledged difficulties in compiling the report and say it will be released soon.
“It is, in a way, a painful process to get to the finishing line,” Peter K. Ben Embarek, a food safety scientist with the World Health Organization who is leading the team of experts, said at a news conference on Friday. “But the content is now complete.”
Britain, which has now given a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to more than 30 million people, began a gradual lifting of coronavirus restrictions for most of its population on Monday.
People in England are now allowed to gather outdoors in groups of up to six, or two households, after the end of a stay-at-home order in force since early January.
Outdoor sports facilities, like tennis and basketball courts and swimming pools, are also opening in England. Nonessential retail and outdoor dining are set to return from April 12. Students returned to classes earlier this month. Elsewhere in Britain, Scotland and Wales have also begun easing stay-at-home orders, and Northern Ireland is set to review on coronavirus restrictions next month.
For many in Britain, the easing was a cautious optimistic note after months lockdown, the nation’s third. The current lockdown began in January, after a new variant of the coronavirus swept the country, with as many as 60,000 daily cases and 1,800 daily deaths at its winter peak. On Sunday, the country reported 3,862 cases and 19 deaths, according to a New York Times database. London has so far reported no deaths from the virus on Sunday, according to Public Health England. If no reports are added later — the figures are not yet finalized — it would be the capital’s first day without a virus death since September. Officials are hoping a slow lifting will largely remove restrictions on socializing in England by June 21.
Travel abroad for English residents, however, remains banned, with a task force reviewing the rule next month. Officials cautioned that people should still work from home where possible and minimize contact.
In other news from around the globe:
In Australia, the city of Brisbane announced a three-day lockdown after seven people were infected with the coronavirus, the country’s first citywide lockdown in more than a month. Starting at 5 p.m. on Monday, residents of the city, which is Australia’s third largest, will be allowed to leave their houses only for essential purposes such as buying groceries, exercising or seeking medical care, and masks will be mandatory in public. Tests showed the virus spreading in Brisbane is the highly contagious variant first detected in Britain, officials said.
Yan Zhuang contributed reporting.
Palakiko Chandler took their little cousins to Nanakuli Beach on Oahu last weekend and noticed something they hadn’t seen in a while: a parking lot full of rental cars. The tourists were back.
“It was just so packed,” said Mr. Chandler, 27 and a Native Hawaiian. “Me and my cousins were looking at each other like, should we just go home?” The youngest cousins needed several reminders to keep their distance from strangers for virus safety.
For much of the pandemic, Hawaii had some of the strictest rules for visitors in the United States, requiring a 14-day quarantine for everyone arriving in the islands. The policy took a heavy economic toll on a state that depends heavily on tourism, but it was lauded for its success in limiting the impact of the virus for months.
Now, though, Hawaii has reopened for travelers: A negative test within 72 hours of arrival lets them skip the quarantine in most places. At least 28,000 people arrived in Hawaii on each of the last two Saturdays, according to state travel data —the most in a day since the pandemic began, and not far from typical prepandemic levels.
The influx has residents worried. Some have been posting on social media for months, pleading with mainlanders not to come, or if they do, to be mindful of the islands’ isolation and limited resources. The state has a total of 3,000 hospital beds for its population of 1.4 million, and has among the fewest I.C.U. beds per capita of any state; they were often mostly full even before the pandemic.
Hawaii’s precautions did not keep the virus out completely: The islands had a holiday surge, like the rest of the country, and parts of the state are struggling with outbreaks now. Daily new case reports have doubled since late February, with some recent clusters focused on tourism workers. Hospitalizations have increased 17 percent in the last two weeks.
“The looming concerning things are the variants,” said Dr. Damien Kapono Chong-Hanssen of the Kauai Community Health Center. “The California variant has been implicated in what’s happening in Maui right now. Maui is not looking better.”
Mainlanders are making the trip anyway. “Hawaii is again packed with tourists,” wrote the travel site The Points Guy. Favorite sites are sold out, check-in lines are long, and the lines for outbound flights are getting longer.
Tourists are crowding popular beaches without wearing masks or paying much attention to social distancing. Some visitors have gotten rowdy. A pair of arriving tourists were sent home after trying to pay a bribe to avoid the testing requirement.
The situation is worsening the irritation that many state residents feel toward vacationers. Now the tourists aren’t just crowding the island and driving up prices, they say, they are also heedlessly risking everyone’s health.
“Hawaiians and locals alike have always seen the disrespect that tourists bring to our islands,” Mr. Chandler said. “This is kind of the last straw. You’re coming to our home and you’re endangering us during a pandemic.”
The tension is especially prevalent among Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, who face greater risk for Covid-19 and higher rates of chronic disease than average.
“Local people are tired of being treated a certain type of way,” said Charles Kaua Taylor-Fulton, 20, who lives on Oahu. “When tourists come, they can be very rude or entitled. There’s just a sense of entitlement.”
Dr. Lee Buenconsejo-Lum of the University of Hawaii at Manoa said the state’s case numbers are not exploding, at least not yet. But she said she would like to see travelers exhibit the same commitment to wearing masks that locals have. “It’s a matter of constantly educating the tourists,” she said.
Still, the high travel season is just getting started, and restrictions are continuing to ease. Bars have reopened in parts of the state and outdoor weddings are now allowed to welcome up to 100 guests.
“We can already see into the future of summer,” Mr. Chandler said, “and it’s going to be packed.”
A year after the coronavirus spurred an extraordinary exodus of workers from New York City office buildings, what had seemed like a short-term inconvenience is now becoming a permanent shift in how and where people work. Employers and employees have both embraced the advantages of remote work, including lower office costs and greater flexibility for employees, especially those with families.
Beyond New York, some of the country’s largest cities have yet to see a substantial return of employees, even where there have been less stringent lockdowns, and some companies have announced that they are not going to have all workers come back all the time.
In recent weeks, major corporations, including Ford in Michigan and Target in Minnesota, have said they are giving up significant office space, while Salesforce, whose headquarters occupies the tallest building in San Francisco, said only a small fraction of its employees would be in the office full time.
But no city in the United States, and perhaps the world, must reckon with this transformation more than New York, and in particular Manhattan, an island whose economy has been sustained, from the corner hot dog vendor to Broadway theaters, by more than 1.6 million daily commuters.
About 90 percent of Manhattan office workers are working remotely, a rate that has remained unchanged for months, according to a recent survey of major employers by the Partnership for New York City, which estimated that less than half of office workers would return by September.
Across Midtown and Lower Manhattan, the country’s two largest central business districts, there has never been a greater proportion of office space for lease — 16.4 percent, much higher than in past crises, including after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001 and the Great Recession in 2008.
As more companies push back dates for returning to offices and make at least some remote work a permanent policy, the consequences for New York could be far-reaching, not just for the city’s restaurants, coffee shops and other small businesses, but for municipal finances, which depend heavily on commercial real estate.
Some of the largest and most enduring companies, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., which has more than 20,000 office employees in the city, have told their work forces that the five-day office workweek is a relic. The bank is considering a model in which employees would rotate between working remotely and in the office.
Other large businesses, including the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, the marketing group Omnicom Group and the advertising giant WPP, have searched for subtenants to take over significant chunks of their Manhattan offices.
The loss of workers has caused the market value of commercial properties that include office buildings to plunge nearly 16 percent, prompting a sharp decline in the tax revenue that pays for essential city services.
Johnson & Johnson said on Monday that it would supply its one-shot vaccine to African Union member states, as the continent experiences a slow rollout of vaccines, an uptick in cases and worries about new virus mutations.
The pharmaceutical company said that its unit, Janssen Pharmaceutica NV, agreed a deal with the African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, an African Union organization, to supply up to 220 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine beginning in the fall. The organization will also have the possibility of ordering an additional 180 million doses for a combined total of up to 400 million doses through 2022.
The company will supply most of the doses from a plant in South Africa, which is operated by Aspen Pharma. The African Export-Import Bank, a Pan-African bank headquartered in Cairo, will pay manufacturers $2 billion on behalf of member countries in the form of loans.
South Africa’s president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who as the chair of the African Union set up the vaccine trust last year, is expected to tour the Aspen Pharma facilities in Port Elizabeth, on country’s southeast coast, on Monday.
“This agreement is a significant milestone in protecting the health of all Africans,” Mr. Ramaphosa said in a statement. “It is also a powerful demonstration of African unity and of what we can achieve through partnership between the state sector, the private sector and international institutions that puts people first.”
The announcement came as coronavirus cases surpassed 4.1 million in Africa, with more than 111,000 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Concerns have been mounting about the emergence of variants on the continent, particularly in countries like South Africa, where a highly transmissible variant has driven up cases. Scientists also recently said they found a highly mutated variant of the coronavirus in travelers from Tanzania, the East African nation whose leaders have consistently brushed aside the threat of the coronavirus pandemic.
Besides dealing with other deadly outbreaks including Ebola, polio and measles, many nations in Africa are also dealing with vaccine inequity, as developed nations hoard doses and seek to inoculate their entire populations. So far, only 7.7 million vaccines have been administered on the continent, according to the World Health Organization, which last week warned of a slowdown in deliveries even as initial batches were exhausted.
Vaccines were yet to arrive in 10 African countries, the W.H.O. said, while many others continued to face logistical challenges in addition to vaccine hesitancy.
Nations including South Africa have called on governments and pharmaceutical companies to waive vaccine patents to get medicines to more people more quickly.
The Africa C.D.C. has said that a minimum 60 percent of the continent’s population — or 750 million people — must be vaccinated if the virus is to be curbed there. The deal with Johnson & Johnson “enables Africa to meet almost 50 percent of that target,” Dr. John Nkengasong, the head of the Africa C.D.C., said in a statement.
“The key to this particular vaccine is that it is a single-shot vaccine, which makes it easier to roll out quickly and effectively, thus saving lives,” he added.
KATHMANDU, Nepal — Nepal on Monday received a donation of 800,000 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine from China, which the authorities said would help them restart an inoculation drive that had been halted because of shipment delays in India.
Dr. Jageshwor Gautam, a spokesman for the ministry of health, said the vaccination campaign could resume in less than a week, “once we determine beneficiary age groups.”
China and India, both of which border Nepal, have been jockeying for influence over the Himalayan nation of 30 million people, most recently through vaccine diplomacy.
Nepal had planned its vaccination campaign around the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine producer. One million doses have been donated by the Indian government, and Nepal had bought an additional two million doses from the Serum Institute.
But half of the purchase from the Serum Institute has been delayed indefinitely, health officials in Nepal said, despite an agreement that it would arrive 15 days after the deal. India, which is supplying the AstraZeneca vaccine to more than 70 countries, has begun holding back nearly all of its exports as it tries to suppress a surge in coronavirus cases at home.
Officials in Nepal suspended vaccinations on March 17, citing the shortage of doses.
To fill the gap, they are now relying on a vaccine developed by the Chinese company Sinopharm, which last month became the second approved for emergency use in Nepal after Beijing pledged to provide doses free.
Since its vaccination drive began in late January, Nepal has administered about 1.6 million doses, according to a New York Times database. Dr. Gautam said the 500,000 remaining AstraZeneca doses would be given to frontline health workers, and that there were none available for the rest of the population “at least for now.”
Nepal has recorded almost 277,000 infections and 3,027 deaths, according to a New York Times database. Although the country’s average daily new cases are a small fraction of what they were at their peak last fall, health officials fear a second wave as infections surge in neighboring India. On Monday, India reported 68,020 new infections, the highest one-day rise since October.
Spotify’s headquarters in the United States fills 16 floors of 4 World Trade Center, a towering office building in Lower Manhattan that was the first to rise on the site of the 2001 terror attacks. Its offices will probably never be full again: Spotify has told employees they can work anywhere, even in another state.
A few floors down, MediaMath, an advertising tech company, is planning to abandon its space, a decision fueled by its new remote-work arrangements during the pandemic.
In Midtown Manhattan, Salesforce, whose name adorns a 630-foot building overlooking Bryant Park, expects workers to be in the office just one to three days a week. A nearby law firm, Lowenstein Sandler, is weighing whether to renew its lease on its Avenue of the Americas office, where 140 lawyers used to work five days a week.
“I could find few people, including myself, who think we are going to go back to the way it was,” said Joseph J. Palermo, the firm’s chief operating officer.
sparked an extraordinary exodus of workers from office buildings, what had seemed like a short-term inconvenience is now clearly becoming a permanent and tectonic shift in how and where people work. Employers and employees have both embraced the advantages of remote work, including lower office costs and greater flexibility for employees, especially those with families.
Beyond New York, some of the country’s largest cities have yet to see a substantial return of employees, even where there have been less stringent government-imposed lockdowns, and some companies have announced that they are not going to have all workers come back all the time.
In recent weeks, major corporations, including Ford in Michigan and Target in Minnesota, have said they are giving up significant office space because of their changing workplace practices, while Salesforce, whose headquarters occupies the tallest building in San Francisco, said only a small fraction of its employees will be in the office full time.
But no city in the United States, and perhaps the world, must reckon with this transformation more than New York, and in particular Manhattan, an island whose economy has been sustained, from the corner hot dog vendor to Broadway theaters, by more than 1.6 million commuters every day.
to return in early May, in part as a signal to other employers that filling New York’s buildings is a key to its recovery.
“This is an important step for the city, and it’s another important step on the way to the full recovery of New York City,” Mr. de Blasio said.
Still, about 90 percent of Manhattan office workers are working remotely, a rate that has remained unchanged for months, according to a recent survey of major employers by the Partnership for New York City, an influential business group, which estimated that less than half of office workers would return by September.
Across Midtown and Lower Manhattan, the country’s two largest central business districts, there has never been more office space — 16.4 percent — for lease, much higher than in past crises, including after the Sept. 11 terror attacks in 2001 and the Great Recession in 2008.
As more companies push back dates for returning to offices and make at least some remote work a permanent policy, the consequences for New York could be far-reaching, not just for the city’s restaurants, coffee shops and other small businesses, but for municipal finances, which depend heavily on commercial real estate.
Sarah Patellos, who is on Spotify’s music team, has been working from a dining room table in Truckee, Calif., a mountain town near Lake Tahoe where she has spent most of the past year after flying there for a weekend trip in March 2020 and getting stuck because of government-imposed lockdowns.
on CNBC. “As for everyone working from home all the time, there is also zero chance of that.’’
from the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package: $5.95 billion in direct aid and another $4 billion for schools, a City Hall spokeswoman said.
While that addresses immediate needs, the city still faces an estimated $5 billion budget deficit next year and similar deficits in the following years, and a changing work culture could hobble New York’s recovery.
The amount of office space in Manhattan on the market has risen in recent months to 101 million square feet, roughly 37 percent higher than a year ago and more than all the combined downtown office space in Los Angeles, Atlanta and Dallas. “This trend has shown little signs of slowing down,” said Victor Rodriguez, director of analytics at CoStar, a real estate company.
At least one industry, however, is charging in the opposite direction. Led by some of the world’s largest companies, the technology sector has expanded its footprint in New York during the pandemic. Facebook has added 1 million square feet of Manhattan office space, and Apple added two floors in a Midtown Manhattan building.
And the surge in available commercial real estate has actually been a boon for some new businesses that have been able to find spaces at rents that are lower than they were before the pandemic.
“I’ve seen the obituary for New York City many times,” said Brian S. Waterman, the executive vice chairman of Newmark, a commercial real estate services firm. “The office reboarding will start to occur in May, June and July, and you are going to have a much fuller occupancy once we hit September.”
rally behind an idea that seemed unthinkable before the pandemic: converting distressed office buildings in Manhattan into low-income housing.
The record vacancy rate has been driven by companies across almost all industries, from media to fashion, that have discovered the advantages of remote work.
Beside the cost savings of operating a scaled-down office or no office at all, modern technology and communications have allowed workers to stay connected, collaborate from afar and be more productive without lengthy commutes. Parents are also clamoring for more flexibility to care for their children.
“We believe that we’re on top of the next change, which is the Distributed Age, where people can be more valuable in how they work, which doesn’t really matter where you spend your time,” said Alexander Westerdahl, the vice president of human resources at Spotify, the Stockholm-based streaming music giant that has 6,500 employees worldwide.
For now, Spotify does not plan to reduce its New York footprint, but as of February, the company told its United States employees — 2,100 of whom had worked at the Manhattan office — that they could work from pretty much anywhere.
“The change is mainly driven by globalization and digitalization, and our tools are much, much better at allowing for people to work from anywhere,” Mr. Westerdahl said.
Remote work, of course, is not without significant downsides.
The blurry lines that already existed between work and personal life have been all but obliterated during the pandemic. Without the time spent commuting in the morning and at night, people are logging on to work earlier in the day and staying connected later into the night.
And despite modern technology and video conferencing capabilities, companies are struggling to foster workplace cultures and make employees, especially new hires, feel welcome and part of a team.
Those concerns have weighed heavily on executives at Kelley Drye, a law firm founded in 1836 in New York, which is moving from Park Avenue near Grand Central Terminal to 3 World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan.
“Zoom and Teams are great,” said Andrea L. Calvaruso, a lawyer who is the chair of the firm’s trademark and copyright group, but she added that “there’s no substitute for sitting down in a beautiful new collaborative and working together without distractions.”
But Ms. Patellos, despite being unprepared after being stuck in California — she had to buy a keyboard and monitor — soon found herself connecting with colleagues all over the world just as she had in her New York office.
“I fell into a rhythm,” said Ms. Patellos, who is still deciding where to eventually move. “I maintained a bit of East Coast hours, starting my days a little earlier and ending a bit earlier. Before I knew it, it became the norm and a routine.”
I don’t blindly accept that the pipeline is the problem. We had to think differently. We had to behave differently. So what we’ve tried to show with our transparency is the deliberate steps you can take to get better.
What have the conversations been like with white men?
When we looked at the teams inside PwC that were servicing our top clients six years ago, they were done by white men. We made the decision that we were going to change that. So we invested more in our pipeline. We did more around sponsorship. We worked with our clients. And we’ve made massive progress there. But as we did that, many of our white men were like, “I get it intellectually. But God, I’ve been working for 20 years to be that guy in that job. And I feel cheated.” I’ve had 50 steak dinners in the last four years with incredibly talented white men who say to me, “Tim, I get it. I see what we’re doing. Our clients demand it. It’s the right thing to do. I’m all in. But what about me?”
So we’ve tried to redefine success. You may not be the lead partner, but how about helping that person get the role? What would you rather be remembered for? What do you want to be inspired by? And the reason why growth is so important is that it’s not a zero-sum game. When you’re growing, you’re creating more opportunities. It becomes less about these 20 clients. Now we’ve grown, and there’s 30 clients to share the wealth.
Are there people who just feel like they got cheated? Yes, there are. And what I say to those people is, “I’m asking you to respect what we are trying to do. I’m asking you to respect our colleagues. I’m asking you to have compassion. And if you don’t agree, that’s OK. You don’t have to agree with me. But I do need you to live our values.”
How did the pandemic unfold at PwC?
Our people are all over the world in different countries. When the pandemic hit, as borders shut down, as transportation shut down, the first thing it was all about was just getting people safe, getting them home.
Then, in the later part of March, think about the equity markets. Think about the uncertainty. People were worried about their health and worried about their financial security. My leadership team, my board and I, we talked about the fact that we’re not a health-care provider. We’re not a health-care company. So we talked about economic certainty for our people, and we said we would use layoffs only as a last resort. We did that having no idea where our business was going to go.
Our business took a dip and, and we sat down every week and looked at the numbers, asking ourselves along, “Can we do this? Have we made the right decision?” And we held on. Outside of performance-based layoffs, which is a traditional part of business, we got through it.
BRUSSELS — Pushing member states to address salary disparities between men and women, the European Union revealed details on Thursday of a proposed law that would require companies to divulge gender pay gaps and give job candidates access to salary information in employment interviews. It also would provide women with better tools to fight for equal pay.
The move comes as female workers across the world have been disproportionately affected by the economic repercussions of the coronavirus crisis, and it could lead to sanctions on companies that do not comply.
The proposed law would also empower women to verify if they are being fairly compensated in comparison with male colleagues. The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, wants to provide workers with the ability to seek proper compensation in case of discrimination.
Under the proposed law, those who believe they are victims could take action through independent monitors of compliance with the equal-pay requirement. They could also press gender-based pay grievances through workers’ representatives, either as individuals or in groups.
European Institute for Gender Equality, a research group, female managers earn a quarter less than male ones.
Despite several efforts to enforce equal pay in practice, for more than 60 years it seemed out of reach for women across the bloc, which presents itself as the beacon of human rights and equality. So far, only 10 European countries, including Austria, Germany, Italy, and Sweden, have introduced national legislation on pay transparency.
The proposed E.U.-wide law requires approval by member countries and the European Parliament. There are concerns that it might be blocked by national governments, as happened with the European Commission’s proposal to introduce gender quotas on management boards. Wary of these potential obstacles, Vera Jourova, the bloc’s top official for values and transparency, called the proposal on pay “pure pragmatism and good economic calculations,” underlining that gender equality at work benefited businesses.
2020 Women in Work Index, compiled annually across 33 developed countries by PricewaterhouseCoopers, a consultancy, economic damage from the pandemic, as well as repercussions from government policies, is disproportionately affecting women. This has reversed the steady trend of gains for women in employment and has led to what the consultancy calls a “shecession.”
Women’s rights groups welcomed the commission’s initiative. “Information is power: pay transparency would enable employees to know the value of their work and negotiate salaries accordingly,” said Carlien Scheele, director of the European Institute for Gender Equality. “This would help tackle discrimination in the workplace, which can only be a boon for gender equality.”
Employers, aware of the proposal’s possible legal and economic repercussions, were careful in their assessment, blaming what they described as deep underlying reasons for gender inequalities.
“Reasonable requirements on pay transparency can be part of the answer,” said Markus J. Beyrer, head of BusinessEurope, a lobbying group. “However, the key to improve gender equality is to address the root causes of inequalities, especially gender stereotypes, labor market segregation and insufficient provision of child care.”
Mr. Beyrer said the commission must respect “national social partners’ competences” and should not “complicate human resources management with excessive administrative burdens and open the way to undue litigation.”
According to Ms. Jourova, “binding rules” are required, not just reliance on the social responsibility undertaken by companies. “We see that it doesn’t lead anywhere,” she said.