Jeff Blau says New Year will bring vaccinated workers back to office
Related Companies chief worries mask mandates can get in the way of bringing workers back
Related Companies Chief Executive Officer Jeff Blau proclaimed Jan. 1 will be the day vaccinated workers will start heading back to New York City’s offices in droves and begin putting the Covid-19 pandemic behind us.
Blau made the prediction to host Andrew Ross Sorkin during a Dec. 10 episode of CNBC’s Squawk Box, and said he’s already seeing signs of pre-pandemic life returning to the Big Apple.
“As you walk through the city and go up and down the streets and try to get places, traffic is as bad as it has ever been here in New York, which, in a strange way, is a great sign,” he said.
He added that office occupancy in the city is at about 45 percent, and that companies were beginning to encourage employees working from home to get back together in the office, where ideas can better come to life.
“I think companies have finally realized that innovation, productivity, brainstorming and all that really has to happen in-person, in the office,” he said. “I think we’ll see right after the New Year a big push back to the office.”
But to make that happen, Blau stressed workers will have to get a jab before coming in, a move that will ensure employees won’t necessarily have to be masked while meeting in the conference room.
“Here at Related, we’ve had vax mandates for several months now and we are not masked in the office,” he said. “If you look at cities across the country that have taken the approach of going with vax mandates, as opposed to going back to masks, I think that has been a much more successful recipe.”
He added that California is demanding residents wear masks in all enclosed areas vaccinated or not, resulting in fewer people showing up at the office, restaurants and gyms as compared to New York.
“I think the way to do this is get everybody vaccinated and back to the office,” he said. “And that is what we are doing here.”
That plan is in line with New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who on Friday announced a statewide mandate that requires masks in all indoor public places — unless businesses or venues have implemented a vaccine requirement.
Blau has been nudging workers back in offices for some time now, making the push initially back in August of 2020, when Covid rates in New York City were extremely low.
[Squawk Box] — Vince DiMiceli