There's been lots of talk about the post-pandemic world and how things will change. No less than Warren Buffet, the 89-year-old CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, wonders if the future of offices will be different. “The supply and demand for office space may change significantly,” he surmised the other day. He added: “A lot of people have learned they can work from home.”
Well, yeah, under the "any-port-in-a-storm" reckoning, I guess we can all do what’s required when the gun's pointed at our head. Yet, while I’m not ready any time soon to pit my undernourished investment knowledge against the king’s, I will point out something Mr. Buffet may be unaware of: the importance of community in sustaining happiness across a nation. And that plays right into his thought.
Here's a poser for you that's directly related: what country is the happiest in the world this year?
And for the 3rd year running.
#2: Denmark. And #3: Norway.
Where's Canada? #9.
The UK's at #15.
The USA's at #19…
Wait a minute! What’s going on here? Whey are we so far behind a country like Finland?
Dr. Robert Putnam of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University thinks he knows. In his book "Bowling Alone", he surmises: "We used to be joiners, now we’re not. We don’t embrace bowling leagues the way we used to. Church attendance is off. Book clubs, investment clubs and other gatherings of people into ‘communities’ have lost their allure as we replace pleasant pastimes with helter skelter lives aimed at achieving things, not enjoying things. The simple act of joining and being regularly involved in organized groups has a very significant, positive impact on individual health, well-being and happiness.”
That's a point I make in my book "Why Being Happy Matters" (whybeinghappymatters.com) The lesson we can learn here is that yes, companies may argue they can save rental dough by telling their employees to work from home, but I'm pretty sure this will turn around and bite them as those laborers start feeling downcast because the community they used to be part of has vanished. And with those feelings will come a decrease in productivity and innovation.
So yes, I'm sure there will be changes in the post-pandemic world… just not sure Warren's prediction will be one of them.
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