How office owners can keep their spaces competitive after COVID-19
The coronavirus outbreak has prompted numerous questions from across the entire CRE world. Initially, retail owners were concerned about their tenants going out of business. Multifamily owners were wondering for how long their residents will be able to pay. And in the office world, owners are still wondering how many of their tenant companies will switch to a more remote-heavy arrangement, putting leases into jeopardy.
The reality is that many employees may remain at home more often, but this doesn't mean that offices are going away. Far from it, in fact. In reality, while we may see some employees permanently heading home and some companies opting for a hybrid schedule, the office world is going through a fundamental pivot towards a new understanding of how we use our workplaces.
"COVID-19 is forcing us all to turn the page on how we view real estate. But although it may be a different page, it is still the same book."
Let's start by considering why employees would spend more time at home. Perhaps their employers begin trimming down on space as leases come up for renewal, but the reasons for wanting to stay home may be more personal as well. Commuting can take a lot of time and money, so some employees may want to skip it entirely. Working in the office can be distracting or plain and simple unpleasant, particularly for certain personality types. And some people who may have families or even animals to look out for may want to maximize their time at home to be with their loved ones.
On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons why people would still want to go into the office post-COVID-19. Plenty of employees simply prefer it to be at home all day long, due to the social aspects and variety from home life the office can provide. And working from home is associated with less motivation amongst employees.
There are more significant reasons for businesses to want to keep the office, too. While video conferencing, and soon enough VR, is making it easy to collaborate, for many projects there is still no substitute for in-person teamwork. If you're working on something that is extremely visual, for instance, being able to share a computer screen can be helpful. Simply being able to sit down in a conference room can be a lot easier than having to deal with getting everyone on Zoom, and for businesses that have a lot of sales activity, the office can be great for meetings, too.
As Gianpiero Petriglieri described for BBC, being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, and if you are experiencing 'Zoom fatigue', you are not alone.
So what should office owners and corporate occupiers do to keep their spaces attractive?
First of all, they should realize that the future of the office is about specific uses, not endless banks of cubicles or bullpens. Meeting spaces should be built out and tailored to numerous different styles and sizes of meetings, from telepresence-heavy to small group breakouts to bigger gatherings. For landlords, this means prepping for the right kind of connectivity, power solutions and spatial arrangements these types of meetings will necessitate.
Also critical: property owners need to make sure their spaces are as stress-free as possible. Obviously this means keeping the property clean, but it also means leveraging the right kind of technology to keep people happy in their workspace and prevent them from longing for the home office. While offices, in general, aren't going anywhere, the same can't be said about offices that make their occupants unhappy.
An excellent solution on that note is the tenant experience platform, allowing property managers to communicate directly with their occupants in order to ensure a high-quality property experience. Good tenant experience apps also allow the occupants themselves to create and plan events, meaning that the type of community that lots of workers want will be easier to achieve.
COVID-19 is forcing us all to turn the page on how we view real estate. But although it may be a different page, it is still the same book. Tenants will still demand a great experience alongside easy building access, smart device connectivity, the right mix of amenities and community, neighborhood perks and more...they'll simply demand these things even more than before. For the right landlords, this represents a tremendous opportunity to reassert their value and keep occupants renewing their leases.
Not sure how to get tenants back to offices? Here are key areas to drive action.