“I’ve personally missed seeing my colleagues this year and working in a collaborative space, and I don’t really know anybody who feels differently,” said Marie Puybaraud, director of global research at JLL. “The office will still be an important part of the work-life mix. Interestingly, the new purpose which is emerging may require more square footage to facilitate this changing work pattern, not less.”
One potential trend that is emerging is the concept of “working near home” which allows employees to come into satellite offices that are closer to their homes. This helps them achieve a healthier work-life balance, without sacrificing the benefits of working remotely.
Additionally, three out of four respondents said they expect their employer to support their wellness and health. This has led some companies to start offering more resources to support employees while they are working from home.
For instance, both Google and Shopify have offered stipends to employees to go towards making their makeshift home offices more comfortable.
Groundscrapers Will Be The Future Of Office Space
For the most part, the post-pandemic office will be a cross between home office environments and traditional workspaces that we once knew.
Architecture firm HLW Los Angeles is anticipating demand for low-rise office properties that make it easier to offer workers a safe, low-density office space.
“We anticipate that there will be a continued shift away from class-A high rises to what we call ‘groundscrapers,’ which create fewer moments for bottlenecks in terms of vertical mobility,” said Sejal Sonani, a principal at HLW Los Angeles. “As more attention is paid to creating workspaces that employees feel safe returning to, these types of buildings will grow increasingly attractive.”
HLW Los Angeles’ is using this method to shape its Westside Pavilion project, allowing a single tenant to occupy three floors.
Sonani added that the local market will support this strategy as Los Angeles is always seeing demand for creative office space rather more so than retail.
“This is actually the case for a lot of the urban projects in Los Angeles—the developments are surrounded by transit and amenities, so while the structures might not make sense as a shopping mall, they do make sense for creative office space,” said Sonani.
Sublease Space Continues To Grow
A new report from Cushman & Wakefield has found that sublease office space is skyrocketing as the office market struggles to stay afloat during the pandemic.
In the first three quarters of 2020, office sublease has increased by 52% in the U.S., totaling around 95 million square feet.
Some cities saw sublease space more than double, such as San Francisco by 488%, Nashville by 211%, Seattle by 182%, Pittsburgh by 174% and more.
Currently, Manhattan has the most sublease space of any market with 16.1 million square feet, that of which accounted for 4% of its office inventory.
However, some markets did see sublease fall during the third quarter of 2020, most significantly Phoenix by -0.8 million square feet and Houston by -0.9 million square feet.
Additionally, the report revealed diminishing demand to take up office space in major downtown areas as dense cities have become largely avoided over the last several months.
Despite the growing concerns over the massive amounts of sublease space, the report noted that these numbers have stayed below the record peak during the recession in the early 2000s.
“Sublease space in markets that historically have had limited space and high costs may be attractive to expanding occupiers returning to the office if/when the pandemic begins to subside,” they report said.
Although the promise of a vaccine is approaching, companies are still uncertain when it will be safe to bring their employees back into the workspace safely.
Some large organizations have even taken steps to transitioning their workforce to permanent remote work positions.
The city itself is expecting a decrease of 33% of office floor space, with only 5% of employees saying they anticipate returning to the workspace full-time.
Now, Toronto is seeing around 2.5 million square feet of office space up for sublease, which is four times the amount pre-pandemic.
“Downtown, a decline in sublet available space of 159,000 square feet per quarter would be needed — double the fastest rate recorded in any peak-to-valley period during the last 20 years,” wrote Bill Argeropoulos, principal at global commercial real estate firm Avison Young. “Clearly, significant pent-up demand would be required, especially given the amount of new office space that will be delivered downtown between now and 2024.”
The future of coworking is also a mystery. Although they share similar risks that traditional offices do, they have the benefit of offering flexible, short-term leases that allow workers tired of being at home a safe haven.
That is why some experts predict that the coworking industry will have an uptick in demand as companies seek office space that is less risky than taking out long-term leases.
The Value Of The Employee Experience
Research has proven time and time again how valuable the employee experience is to a well-oiled company.
So moving forward, organizations will need to identify strategies that help their employees be productive, engaged, satisfied and efficient.
At the People Matters and SAP Concur virtual CHRO roundtable, experts discussed what employees will need in the future and how the workforce as a whole will be shaped.
“Experience is the new currency that is fueling the next wave of business growth. The economic value has rapidly evolved from selling a product to selling a service, and now selling an experience,” said Mankiran Chowhan, managing director at SAP Concur India. “To boost employee satisfaction and retention, organizations must ensure they are helping staff manage prosaic tasks as there is a direct link between employee experience, employee engagement, and business results.”
Chowhan added that a study revealed a healthy employee experience can lead to 17% more productivity, 21% more profitability and 24% decrease in employee turnover rates.
What younger generations expect from their employer was also a topic of discussion. For instance, research has indicated that younger workers believe that the quality of their output should be priority, rather than the amount of hours spent working on a project.
Even more, these workers highly value a healthy work-life balance as it helps their mental health, which thus improves their overall productivity.
Overall, the theme for the future of work is flexibility. This means flexibility in workspaces, schedules and work arrangements will play the largest role in defining how well a workforce operates.
The Census Bureau reported that women are three times more likely to be unemployed due to COVID-19 childcare needs.
Unfortunately, this means that in many instances, women will have to work harder than their male counterparts to receive the same benefits and opportunities. So how can we make sure our roles are respected and recognized as essential?
For starters, working mothers often struggle between balancing their work responsibilities with their parental duties.
However, being a parent offers a specific set of skills to the workplace that is often overlooked. That fact in itself should help working parents let go of the guilt they may have about choosing between two worlds, and understand that being a multitasking professional is an admirable skill.
Making connections might be difficult to do virtually, but networking online could actually be simpler than before. Now, it is easy for workers to find mutual connections through social media, shoot them a message and open the door to new opportunities.
Additionally, with video conferencing becoming an essential factor in business operations today, showing you are engaged can be difficult. Oftentimes, women are inadvertently (or not) interrupted during video meetings.
That is why women should call to attention attempts to stifle their voice. Doing so let’s your perspective be heard and valued, while bringing a dose of self-awareness to people who step over your words.
Aayat is an editor for the Daily Digest based in Lexington, Kentucky. She has worked with local coworking spaces since August of 2017 and enjoys taking her firsthand knowledge to write about the fascinating, constantly evolving world of flexible workspaces.