Investors have a tendency to take things too far when the way things were always done comes into question. The idea of remote work being a thing for the average white-collar professional was never a thing. Until it was.
One of the biggest impacts of Covid, and there are a lot to choose from, is this realization that going into the office five days a week is not necessary for a lot of workers. Roughly one in three Americans are working from home part-time.
This paradigm shift had investors engaging in all sorts of crazy behavior. Zoom video had only been a publicly traded stock for 1 year and 5 months when its market cap passed Exxon Mobil, a company that has been around for 140 years. When the unthinkable happened, one company had done $1.96 billion in revenue over the prior twelve months. The other did $196 billion. You can probably guess which did what.
Since its peak in October 2020, Zoom has lost 88% of its market cap. Exxon, which was smaller than the video conference company for a minute, is now 22 times larger. To use a throwback line from the pandemic, nature is healing.
The pandemic did fundamentally change the work week. There is no going back to the way things used to be. Steven Roth, the chairman of Vornado, one of Manhattan’s largest landlords, said, “Fridays in the office are dead forever, and Mondays are touch and go.”
And while investors took it too far, so did employees, it appears. Companies are now telling their workers it’s time to come back to work.
Leaked Amazon #RTO email sends clear message:
Come back or else.
"…you can feel the surge in energy and collaboration happening among Amazonians and across teams. We are reaching out as you are not currently meeting our expectation …"
— Exec on the Desk (@execonthedesk) August 10, 2023
Anecdotally, I’ve noticed that a lot more commuters are on my train. Here’s a picture from Grand Central Terminal last week.
The data corroborates this. Total traffic for NYC bridges and tunnels is as high as its been post-pandemic. Even Zoom is asking its employees to return to work, albeit on a part-time basis.
Work from home is real but investors took it too far. Same as it always is.