NYC Merchants Lose $12B a Year as Remote Workers Embrace eCommerce

Remote workers reportedly cost New York City more than $12 billion annually.

That’s according to an analysis published Monday (Feb. 13) by Bloomberg News, which estimates that workers in Manhattan are spending 30% less time at the office, meaning they’re spending at least $12.4 billion less with city businesses less per year.

“If less income tax is being paid in New York City,” Comptroller Brad Lander told Bloomberg, “then it’s hard to figure out how to capture enough value to maintain the subways and invest in the schools and keep the city safe and clean and all the things that really matter.”

On the other hand, PYMNTS data shows remote workers shop online twice as much as their in-office peers.

The pervasiveness of remote work has led businesses and governments alike to call on employees to get back to the office.

In her inaugural address last month, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the federal government needed to end its work-from-home rule.

“We need decisive action by the White House to either get most federal workers back to the office, most of the time, or to realign their vast property holdings for use by the local government, by nonprofits, by businesses and by any user willing to revitalize it,” she said.

Her comments were echoed by Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, who also called for the end of remote work at his company.

“They don’t get to choose their compensation, they don’t get to choose their promotion, they don’t get to choose to stay home five days a week,” Gorman said of his workers. “I want them with other employees at least three or four days.”

A number of large companies have said they want to see workers back at their desks at least part of the time. Among them is Disney CEO Robert Iger, who said the company’s hybrid employees must begin working at corporate offices four days a week starting next month.

Other companies’ back-to-the-office mandates have gotten mixed reviews, like Apple, where an employee group called “Apple Together” pushed back against CEO Tim Cook’s three-day-a-week minimum.

And Amazon abandoned its plan to end remote work. CEO Andy Jassy said that at a company of its scale, “there is no one-size-fits-all approach for how every team works best.”

Meanwhile, recent PYMNTS research finds that work-from-home and hybrid work increased by 10% last year, despite a relaxation of pandemic restrictions.

“When we first examined consumers’ online work habits in November 2021, 53% worked in either an entirely remote or hybrid work environment, splitting their time between home and the office,” the study, “12 Months of the Connected Economy,” said. 

And while the work-from-home trend is hurting brick-and-mortar businesses in urban downtowns, it’s good for eCommerce. PYMNTS’ research found that these workers shop online twice as much as their at-work peers.