Businesses will begin to return to their offices once the Coronavirus pandemic subsides—after months of working remotely. The prospect of working in an office setting again will likely raise a lot of questions—especially surrounding health and safety as well as finances and lease terms.
Connected Real Estate Magazine recently spoke with Bryan Murphy, CEO of Breather a private, flexible workspace provider about what the future of commercial real estate and workspaces will look like as businesses return from remote work whenever the pandemic ends.
Connected Real Estate Magazine: How will tenants’ views of workspaces change following COVID-19?,
BM: Tenants already have concerns about returning to crowded and dense workspaces when thinking about a post-COVID-19 world. Keeping the new normal of social distancing in mind, tenants will look to implement new protocols and procedures that will keep health and safety a top priority for all. They will turn to alternative solutions if they find their spaces aren’t enabling them to do that successfully.
Many are rethinking signing or renewing long term leases due to the current nature of the economy and existing risks, and are thinking about flexible space options that are also private for their teams. Lastly, for many businesses working from home will remain indefinite and as a result, they will need to rethink the need for a full-time office as well as their headquarters footprint. Because of this, they will start to look for solutions that provide space on flexible terms that better suit their needs.
Connected: What does the future of the flexible office space look like going forward?
BM: I see COVID-19 being a catalyst for truly flexible workspace. As business owners and operators re-evaluate their space needs, they will seek out solutions that enable them to only pay for the amount of space they need, when and where they need it. We will also see changes in terms of office layout and design. From staggered desk plans, easy-to-clean divider installations, and touch-less solutions for high touch areas like doorways and faucets, we will see a shift in how spaces are set up so that anyone using them can be kept at a safe distance, but also in a way that will enable productivity, collaboration and teamwork to prosper.
For Breather specifically, we rent out completely private office spaces for our customers. As we think about them returning to work, we’ve been developing tailored plans for them that will include space layout and social distancing recommendations, enhanced cleaning protocols and options, as well as local and building-specific guidelines. I see this becoming the new norm for flexible workspace providers.
Connected: Flexible office spaces were attractive to tenants prior to the pandemic. Why do you believe they’ll be more enticing now?
BM: We’re seeing growing concerns from people that are in densely populated co-working spaces who are looking for alternatives. What makes private, flexible workspace options so attractive to business owners seeking office space is that they can benefit from a solution that is exclusive to their team and have control over who is coming and going.
In addition, given the current state of the economy, people are hesitant to commit to signing long-term leases for workspace. Flexible space solutions enable business owners or those looking for space to select options that will serve their logistical needs, when and where they need it, and at a price that may be more suitable for their budget. This is especially important now given how much the economy has changed since the pandemic began.
Connected: What can CRE owners do to accommodate their tenants’ needs and demands if the trend of moving toward flex office spaces rises? Will traditional landlords have to consider drafting more flexible lease terms?
BM: Moving forward, at least for the foreseeable future, signing a traditional, multi-year to decade long lease will not be an option for many companies. Traditional landlords will need to adapt in some way in order to adjust to the new working norm.