The pandemic has unleashed enormous changes on the world. In few places will lasting change likely be greater than in the workplace. In response to COVID-19′s disruption of the traditional office concept, workspace innovation firm The Instant Group queried five dozen directors of commercial real estate across multiple continents on what form those changes may take, both in the short and long-term. The COVID-19 Consortium project, which began in April, is part of the company’s recently-established Agile CRE Think-tank.
The Instant Group, which rethinks workspace on behalf of its clients, places almost 8,000 companies a year in serviced, coworking or managed offices, among other flexible workspace arrangements. Those client companies include Amazon, Barclays, Prudential, Booking.com, Shell, Capital, Serco, Teleperformance and Worldplay.
Not surprisingly, the company has found employers occupying flex space were capable of responding more nimbly and swiftly to COVID-spurred social and economic change than those in traditional work spaces. As a result, a number of observers have begun examining today’s flexible space as a way of predicting the future of office space in general. Findings from the Agile CRE Think-tank project give insight into how that future of work may look.
“Of the 60 senior CRE leaders surveyed across three regions, the vast majority – 75% — see their approach to procuring and managing office space to become more agile,” says Joe Brady, CEO Americas for The Instant Group. “This boils down to taking less space, on more flexible terms across more locations to offer business users better access to workspace that fits their business requirements but maximizes work-life balance.”
One of the major post-pandemic outcomes will be what the think-tank terms the purpose-driven office, reflecting the finding considerable work can be performed without physically traveling to an office. Many real estate industry leaders are convinced core offices situated in city centers will exist for purposes like collaborative team meetings and connection.
Offices won’t be needed or used for work that can be done remotely.
Another development: Work from home and work near home will bridge with core offices to create dispersed workspace. Work from home (WFH) was a widely-practiced undertaking even before the pandemic struck. WFH and core offices will be linked by work near home (WNH) situations. The result will be flexible spaces providing an office setting outside the home, yet boasting a location nearer where workers live. Under this flexible arrangement, up to 40 to 50 percent of work will be done remotely in the long term. Collectively, the core office, work near home and work from home will comprise a new portfolio approach.
The think-tank also foresees changes ahead for commercial real estate costs. Corporate real estate expenses generally range from 9 to 12% of a company’s total cost base, with the majority of expense directly correlated with footprint.
A potential “right sizing” opportunity exists that could enable companies to shift to a 50-50 core-flex split, saving 5 to 6% on costs. Related to this move would be an emergence of local WNH office spokes, where employees would be able to gather to satisfy the need for collaborative work endeavors without having to commute to a primary office hub.
Comfort and collaboration
Changes should also come to the built environment. They include “resimercial” design, a mix of residential elements within commercial spaces designed to accommodate the needs for comfortable, collaborative workspaces.