Oracle's Larry Ellison on a post COVID-19 world "We're never going back."

Den Howlett Profile picture for user gonzodaddy November 9, 2020
Ellison predicts a more distributed and contented workforce lies in our post-COVID future.

Larry Ellison on Zoom
Larry Ellison, CTO Oracle (via Zoom)

While there is much debate about the future of work in a post COVID-19 world, Larry Ellison, executive chairman and CTO Oracle is unequivocal:

We're never going back, I don't mean we're never going back to the office, but we're never going back to the way we used to work - at least not in our industry. Not everyone can work from home. If you're working in a Tesla factory, you can't work work from home. So it's not universal. But an awful lot of our jobs are in the service part of the economy, as opposed to the manufacturing part of the economy. There you can work at home

Speaking at Oracle's CX Summit Ellison outlined the rationale behind his thinking. Citing Governor Cuomo of New York's exhortation to return to the city, Ellison argued that lockdown has proven miserable for New Yorkers, especially those living in apartments:

When you're locked down at home, you'd like your home to have a backyard with the means to see grass, and maybe to see deer wander into your backyard, watch the kids playing in the backyard...being locked down on the 43rd floor of some high rise is not psychologically gratifying. 

Ellison went on to predict that the urban exodus, widely reported among media will never fully return. Is he right? That depends on who you choose to read. CNN, for example, recently gave this case:

Signed contracts for sales of condos and co-ops in Manhattan, for example, plunged nearly 60%in July, while contracts for single-family homes in areas outside of New York City skyrocketed, according to a recent report from brokerage firm Douglas Elliman and Miller Samuel.

In Ellison's worldview, employees will share some of the characteristics of gig workers but with the safety net of employment. Unsurprisingly, Ellison credits technology for providing the means by which the post COVID-19 world will emerge, arguing that improved quality of life (assuming you're not an urban dweller), the ability to choose when people work but without losing the efficiencies business expects represents a win-win. 

Not only can you serve as an employee in New York, from, as I said, from Nashville, Tennessee, you can also do it from Delhi, in India, or other places. So these digital companies will become more global, our workforce will become more distributed. But the great news is they'll have much better tools, they'll be much more efficient, they'll have many more choices of how they work, when they work. They won't be wasting a lot of time commuting, they'll be able to spend more time with their families, all of those things should improve the quality of life, while simultaneously improving the efficiency of the company. And that's a win-win.

Is he correct? Quality of life is likely high on the agenda for many but it's not quite that simple. A recent Blind study concluded that 59% of professionals find remote work to be alienating and are concerned about losing potentially career-boosting benefits of office life while 66% are NOT able to build strong social and professional networks while working remotely. This may turn out to be a non-issue if Ellison's prediction that work will be a mixture of on and offsite working comes true. 

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