Life won’t be the same in a lot of ways as people transition back to their pre-COVID-19 lives—one big difference could be how much, or rather little, office space they come back if they have to return to a physical office.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced most companies to have their employees work remotely for the past few months. During that time, executives have considered making their telework policy a permanent one—at least for some of their employees. Connected Real Estate Magazine recently reported that many companies are looking to create more permanent telework positions after seeing their workers didn’t need to be in the office to complete their assignments.
Meanwhile, a recent Gartner survey revealed that almost 75 percent of the 317 Chief Financial Officers who responded said they planned to move at least five percent of their previously onsite workforce to remote positions once companies could let employees return to work. Approximately 25 percent of CFOs said they would move at least 20 percent of their onsite workers to permanent remote positions.
“This data is an example of the lasting impact the current coronavirus crisis will have on the way companies do business,” Alexander Bant, practice vice president, research for the Gartner Finance Practice said in a statement. “CFOs, already under pressure to tightly manage costs, clearly sense an opportunity to realize the cost benefits of a remote workforce. In fact, nearly a quarter of respondents said they will move at least 20% of their on-site employees to permanent remote positions.”
Less employees means less need for office space
If businesses opt for more of a remote workforce post COVID-19, office space will likely shrink as there will be an emphasis on cutting costs and employees have more resources to successfully work from home, GlobeSt. reports. IT consultant Messaging Architects also cited increased productivity due to an improved work-life balance and accelerated cloud computing, eliminating the need for server rooms, as reasons why offices will likely be smaller in the future.
Smaller offices will likely have less density between there being less workers and space–something a lot of health-conscious workers will likely demand if they have to work onsite. Employers will have to offer it to attract talent, according to Messaging Architects. Six-foot floor circles around desks, one-way foot traffic and plexiglass dividers are all things that could be in offices post COVID-19—at least in the near future. Benefits of smaller offices include better air quality and more space for collaboration.
What a potential shrinking office space trend means for CRE
If more companies are considering keeping their employees offsite, commercial real estate owners need to give them a reason to stay. As offices get smaller, they’ll need more technology so onsite workers can communicate with their colleagues who are working remotely. This makes having a strong in-building wireless network more important than ever. More interactions will be done through email, phone and video conferencing, which has become increasingly more popular during the pandemic. Those communication platforms all share a common thread—they require strong connectivity. This is especially true for video conferencing platforms like Zoom—the last thing anyone wants is lot of buffering or slow downs during an important business-related video chat. Keep in mind that 5G is coming and that could change the experience of telecommuting and virtual reality based video meetings completely. Time will tell but there is no doubt that connectivity will drive much of the innovation in in business offices and home offices forever.
It will be up to commercial real estate owners to ensure their building’s connectivity is strong as more video conferencing is going to take place. After all, a reliable wireless network could be all that stands between a tenant deciding to operate out of a smaller physical office or joining the other businesses who are breaking tradition and staying at home altogether even after the health crisis is over.