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Wednesday, Nov 29, 2023

Disney Now Not the Happiest Place

As if we needed it, the rift between the Walt Disney Co. and the California state government widened last week, with one exasperated Disney executive blasting the state’s new restrictions that will prevent Disneyland from reopening probably until next summer – and then at 25 percent capacity.Disney has safely reopened its famous theme parks in Asia, Europe and Florida, Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock pointed out, but “the state of California continues to ignore this fact, instead mandating arbitrary guidelines that it knows are unworkable …”Remember, last week’s dustup was on top of Disney’s decision a few weeks ago to dismiss 28,000 workers from its California parks division – workers it had been carrying for months with the expectation that Disneyland would be open by now. Disney blamed the state for that decision. And about that time, Bob Iger, Disney’s executive chair and former chief executive, resigned in a huff from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s economic recovery task force.It’s gotten to the point that you’d imagine any meeting between Disney execs and state officials would be about as pleasant as a Trump-Biden debate with open mics.Valley area leaders are quietly starting to fret. At least a few have begun wondering if Disney may move part or all of its Burbank headquarters out of the state. Even though Disney is all but absent from local civic leadership, it is still the Valley’s biggest private employer with an estimated 11,750 local jobs (before the pandemic), and it anchors the Valley’s studio and entertainment industry. A Disney move would be devastating.That seems preposterous, doesn’t it? I mean, where would Disney move to, exactly? On the other hand, weirder things have happened. What’s more, Proposition 15, the so-called split roll question on the November ballot, would add, by one estimate, tens of millions of dollars annually to Disney’s property tax bill. At some point, it would be uncomfortable for Disney execs to stand up at an annual meeting and try to convince shareholders that they’re carrying out their fiduciary responsibility by staying in California.• • •I was shocked to read a survey a week or so ago that said Californians who are working from home are spending an average of 1.7 hours a week trying to resolve tech issues. I was shocked because I would spend at least 30 hours a week on such matters.Working from home, as many workers have been doing for seven months now because of the pandemic, has given us a chance to look back with fondness about some aspects of our past life in the office. And you may have discovered that yes, there are some things you like about working in an actual workplace. For me, one of the very best things is calling the help desk to fix any tech problem. But if I’m working from home and am confounded by something, my best option is to call one of my kids. I’d spend 1.7 hours a week just explaining my software mysteries.The survey, put out by Ezvid Wiki, a video and media company in Portland, Ore, a city which no doubt has many people working from home, said this: “There are some good things about working in an office. Constant supplies of tea and coffee (if you’re lucky), gossip with your co-workers, and paper clips in every color.” Remember office gossip?I must confess that while I work from home on occasion I have worked in the office during the pandemic, so I don’t have first-hand knowledge of what it’s been like to be at home all day every day during these trying months. But I do talk to people, and I know that while there are some benefits to working from home – no commutes, you can work in your sweatpants, take afternoon naps – there are some things people miss. Interaction with colleagues is big – over one third of the survey respondents said they really miss that. But they also miss lunches out, the convenience of copiers and office supplies and several other things, including tech support.We’re going through a big adjustment. What we’re really doing is evolving at an accelerated rate into the workplace of tomorrow. The work-from-home phenomenon probably won’t completely disappear post-pandemic. For many office denizens, our workplaces likely will morph quickly into a hybrid in which we work a lot more from home and go to the office – probably a smaller office – for staff functions, face-to-face meeting with the boss and that kind of thing. That transformation probably would have taken place over 10 or 15 years or more, but we’re doing it now, right now, and at least some of us will never again work our entire workweek in an office.And there will be pluses and minuses to that transformation – some of which we’re already experiencing and some of which we have yet to feel.I’m just hoping we figure a better way to get tech help at home.

Charles Crumpley
Charles Crumpley
Charles Crumpley has been the editor and publisher of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal since March 2016. In June 2021, it was named the best business journal of its size in the country – the fourth time in the last 5 years it won that honor. Crumpley was named best columnist – also for the fourth time in the last 5 years. He serves on two business-supporting boards and has won awards for his civic involvement. Crumpley, a former newspaper reporter, won several national awards and fellowships for his work, and he was a Fulbright scholar to Japan.

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