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Bill Gates: Business travel will be cut by 50% and office days by 30% post-pandemic

By Tanya Lara Published Dec 02, 2020 5:51 am Updated Dec 02, 2020 7:18 am

The world’s second richest man, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, is feeling positive about the COVID-19 vaccines.

In an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria on Nov. 23, he said, “Almost all the vaccines will work and with very high efficacy levels. I’m optimistic that by February it’s very likely that they’ll all prove very efficacious and safe.”

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charitable foundation, has been working for years to improve access to vaccinesto children across the world.

With a net worth of $118 billion, Gates has so far donated $35.8 billion worth of Microsoft stock to the Gates Foundation, according to Forbes, and pledged $300 million to fight the coronavirus pandemic, finding treatment, and vaccines.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates

The philanthropist recently kicked off his podcast series with actress and director Rashida Jones, “Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions,”on his blog Gates Notes, which aired on Nov. 16.

Gates writes in the intro to the podcast, “I know it’s hard to imagine right now while new cases are surging around the world, but there will come a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us. I think it’s safe to assume that society will be changed forever, given how disruptive the virus has been to virtually every part of our lives.”

If we’re doing a lot of remote work, then our desire to socialize, our energy to socialize after we stop working, will be quite a bit greater.

In his podcast with Jones, he said the first thing he would do when the pandemic is over is to see U2 lead singer Bono and give him a big hug.

“We do a lot of our foundation work with Bono and he’s always very affectionate and energetic. There’s some people who, on video, just aren’t as... the emotional connection isn’t as strong.”

You’re going to go hug Bono?” Jones asked.

Absolutely.”

Online meetings will continue after the pandemic

Two of the things that have been most disrupted in our daily lives are work and school. Will working from home, Zoom meetings and online schooling continue even after vaccines become available around the world?

“I think just like World War II brought women into the workforce and a lot of that stayed, this idea of, ‘Do I need to go there physically?’ we’re now allowed to ask that.”

He said that with people being used to online meetings these days they won’t feel slighted if you asked for a virtual meeting rather than face to face when things normalize.

“I think people will go to the office less. You could even share offices with a company that has its employees coming in on different days than your employees are coming in.”

Business travel will decline

On Nov. 6, Gates spoke with Andrew Ross Sorkin of the New York Times and CNBC at NYT’s Dealbook conference, where he predicted that business travel will decline by 50% after the pandemic. (Watch the video here, where he also reveals that he still washes the dishes at home.)

“My prediction would be that over 50% of business travel and over 30% of days in the office will go away.”

I think a lot of people will remain quite conservative in their behavior, particularly if they associate with older people whose risk of being very sick is quite high.

Gates said in his podcast that pre-pandemic, most of his time was spent on business trips, doing conferences and working in the office. “And so my life has changed utterly. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit there’s parts that I kind of like.”

He describes business trips as being “disruptive to your being thoughtful, getting reading done, you know, your sleep gets disrupted.” He likes his “simpler schedule” now and that there’s no traffic when he has to drive somewhere.

People will still be cautious

Gates has so far donated $35.8 billion worth of Microsoft stock to his charitable foundation.

Jones asked, “When do you think we’ll be normal again, where we don’t feel scared to sit at a restaurant or it feels actually relaxing to go to a movie?”

“I think a lot of people will remain quite conservative in their behavior, particularly if they associate with older people whose risk of being very sick is quite high. If we get it so it’s eliminated from the entire globe, then people are going to start to give you a hard time. But if it’s still out in the world, you know, even the countries that have very little virus are mostly still being very careful about public events, because it could get into their country.”

Gates has been reading more since the lockdowns

“Sadly, mostly what I’ve read is about COVID. My general, goof-off reading hasn’t gone up as much.

“You know, I’ve been lucky I’ve gotten more time with kids who are in college. I hadn’t realized the uncertainty that weighs on young people who are trying to make their plans, trying to build up their friends. The fact that they could be sent home at any minute is just…tricky.”

Gates has three children: Rory, Phoebe and Jennifer. Bill and Melinda Gates have said they are not leaving their fortune to them.

His children will reportedly inherit just $10 million each or less than 1% of his fortune. In a Reddit AMA, he said, “I definitely think leaving kids massive amounts of money is not a favour to them. Warren Buffett was part of an article in Fortune talking about this in 1986 before I met him and it made me think about it and decide he was right."

The need for human connection

Gates said social contact in the workplace may go down, so people’s desire to get it from their community, with their friends “might go up because if we’re doing a lot of remote work, then our desire to socialize, our energy to socialize after we stop working, will be quite a bit greater.

“In your local community, your bedroom community, the restaurants and the entertainment could thrive, whereas, in the downtown, maybe less so.”