Will a hybrid work-week have long-term effects on commercial office buildings?
The Future of Commercial Office Buildings in a Hybrid Work World
The Rise of Remote Work
At the height of the pandemic, offices all over the world were forced to close, and employees had to stay home to either quarantine themselves after exposure to a COVID-infected person or to prevent the spread of the virus. However, companies had to go on. While they closed their physical offices, they couldn’t simply stop their operations. Next was the massive shift towards remote work, where employees had to continue their tasks from home.
While the transition proved challenging at first, people quickly became accustomed to the work-from-home environment. And not only did many workers prefer it, but company leadership also began to recognize the benefits of their employees working from home, such as higher productivity and better mental health.
The Emergence of Hybrid Work
When the world began to reopen, it was easy to assume that companies would also reopen their physical offices and welcome employees back to their workstations. However, not everyone was happy to return, insisting they preferred the remote set-up they’d become accustomed to over the last two years. Rather than disappoint and frustrate their teams, many companies came up with a solution – a hybrid work-week that allowed employees to work some days from the office and other days at home, co-working space, café, or any other place that allowed them to work remotely. According to a survey by a leading national commercial real estate brokerage company, 73% of companies plan to have a hybrid work strategy, with 85% of leadership wanting employees in the office at least half the week.
The Impact on Commercial Office Buildings
But what does this mean for commercial office buildings which remained empty for years? Will the transition to the “new normal” reduce the demand for office spaces?
It is easy to assume that hybrid work weeks shouldn’t impact commercial office buildings too significantly. After all, tenants are bound by their leases. Also, a hybrid work week means that employees still need a physical office to go to a few days a week. This means that companies still have to maintain their offices.
However, leaders in companies have found money-saving opportunities in the hybrid work-week. And by strategically scheduling when employees come in, they require less physical space. The result has been companies needing smaller office spaces. When asked about their hybrid work strategies, 46% of businesses have reported that they will reduce office space by 2023, with 59% reporting that they will cut their current space by half or more. According to Globest.com, hybrid work strategies will reduce the demand for office spaces by 9%. So if nothing is done now, there will be long-term effects on commercial office buildings. However, not all is lost.
Strategies for Commercial Office Buildings
Many experts believe that the way commercial office building owners can face these new challenges is by being more flexible with their spaces. Property owners can design floors to be customizable based on need, which will also allow more tenants to fit on one floor. They should also optimize spaces so that they’re more attractive to hybrid work, starting with making technological upgrades and innovative office layouts and designs.
Be flexible with other spaces and design them to be multi-purpose and multifunctional, allowing companies to consider keeping those areas and turning them into collaboration rooms or quiet rooms. Because of the pandemic, leadership has also recognized the importance of mental health and well-being. Commercial office buildings would benefit from creating spaces for wellness, such as pocket gardens and naturally-lit spaces.
In conclusion, the shift to hybrid work is here to stay, and commercial office buildings need to adapt. The key is for building owners to be more flexible, design spaces to be more attractive to hybrid