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The Work-From-Home Movement and Its Effect on Office Space

November 18, 2020

More people are working from home than ever before, but the trend won’t make office space obsolete

COVID-19 is causing challenges in all walks of life, as everything from going to the grocery store to interacting with friends is different than it was this time last year. And as coronavirus cases increase across the country in a winter wave, we could see even more employees avoiding the commute and working from home.

But how long will it last?

There are some promising vaccines in the works. A collaborative effort between Pfizer and BioNTech and a shot produced by Moderna show excellent preliminary results, and the vaccines could start to be available before the end of the year.

However, there are significant supply limitations and logistical hurdles to overcome before seeing a roll-out to the masses. The pandemic is spiking again, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Still, we could see a return to “normalcy” as soon as the second quarter of 2021, with many people returning to the office before then. 

Many workers want to return to the office, and offices will once again become a more in-demand commodity, albeit in a slightly different form. 

Here’s one look at what we might expect regarding remote work, in-person work, and office space in the coming months.

The current work-from-home landscape

Far more people are working from home than in pre-pandemic days, of course. A report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas suggests that close to 50% of employees were working from home at least part of the time by August 2020. 

The number of daily commuters has been increasing monthly since the first lockdowns, as we get more used to the new normal. However, it’s still nowhere near February’s numbers, when over 73% of employees commuted daily.

The average U.S. worker is now staying home 5.8 days per month, up from 2.4 before the pandemic. And those who occasionally telecommuted before COVID-19 are working from home for about 11.9 days each month.

What do these numbers mean?

In short, more people are working from home, and there is reason to believe that the trend will continue into 2021. There’s also a chance that the remote work revolution lasts—in part—indefinitely.

According to Gallup’s research, those who work from home for between one and four days each week are the most engaged and produce the best results

Will managers notice this data and make changes to meet employee expectations? Maybe, which will lead to a durable shift in the way we use office space.

What the future holds

Those who own commercial property might see these numbers and worry about the future of their investments. Still, there will always be a need for office space, although we will likely see many companies seeking different things.

For example, many businesses may continue to allow employees to work from home on projects that don’t require collaboration. If a worker would otherwise be sitting in a cubicle or personal office without meeting with anyone, that’s a job that the individual could probably do remotely. 

At the same time, there are many situations where face-to-face collaboration makes the process much easier. Some companies could begin looking for offices with large floor plans that make working together while socially distancing more accessible. 

Class A office space will also focus more on specific amenities. KBS CEO Chuck Schreiber described these new demands well:

Now, we have the added element of preventing viral transmission, which is being achieved through changing office layouts; increased sanitation; installing barriers like plexiglass between workstations; adding antibacterial surfaces, like copper; erecting signage aimed at reducing crowding; and installing touchless technology to operate equipment in common areas, like elevators and appliances. This additional layer is expected to be a part of office development and operation for the foreseeable future.

Overall, companies will be looking to reduce the chance of airborne and surface COVID transmission in their office spaces in the immediate future. But we could see that trend continue to future-proof structures against novel illnesses in the coming years. 

Office space will adapt—and demand should increase overall

Companies will return to the offices, but they’ll want different things from landlords than before COVID-19. This pandemic has made it evident that we have to work to curb the spread of illness inside the workforce, and businesses will want to keep these practices up to reduce employee sick days and promote good health.

It’ll be up to property owners to adapt to the changing workspace by providing these organizations with the new elements they look for in class A office space. 

Morris Southeast Group can assist as you evaluate adapting your office buildings to the new normal. We’ll provide solid advice to lower vacancy rates and attract businesses to your facilities while keeping in mind the capital availability to execute changes and the potential ROI. And if you are looking to lease space, we can find facilities that meet your workforce’s safety and volume needs—remote, in-person, or a likely mix of both.

Call us at 954.474.1776. You can also reach out directly to Ken Morris by phone at 954.240.4400 or via email at kenmorris@morrissegroup.com.

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