Before Covid-19, many of my clients expressed the same desire for an in-office culture. Especially when tech-giants like Google and Facebook had flaunted their non-traditional work spaces for so long— communal couches, yoga rooms, and for the lucky few, a keg of beer or nitro coffee after work— it made perfect sense that an in-office environment became so appealing to so many.
Now two years into the pandemic, most people find themselves not only not in office spaces as luxurious as tech companies’, but many are still stuck at home, dreaming of the break room coffee they once swore they would never drink again. And even if your office has reopened, people have been met with a situation entirely different than before, and nothing resembling what we had predicted for the future— tightly scheduled days, small pods, limited interaction, and mandatory mask wearing isn’t exactly the ‘in-office culture’ people had in mind.
However, even though the work environment we dreamed of pre-covid may never come into fruition, this is not to say that any dream for a workspace (and a good one, at that) is dead. In fact, this new moment actually offers us a rare opportunity to reimagine what offices and office culture might look like moving forward.
The end of tech campus culture?
Even the tech-giants people envied before are going to have to think differently and adapt. Just a few years ago, they drew in job applicants with their campus-styled offices that included gigantic futuristic greenhouses and over 30 eateries to choose from. But now, many of the jobs that operated out of shiny tech HQs are going fully remote, so what should we expect moving forward as far as post pandemic offices?
What we’ve seen so far is nothing less than interesting. The rise in remote work at tech-companies hasn’t stalled the demand for physical office spaces across the board, especially not for Amazon and Google who have actually seen profit from the pandemic. Announcements by tech-companies making remote work a permanent option has dispersed employees throughout the country, which means that we’ll see a decline in work campuses once iconic to tech companies and begin to see an investment in smaller “hubs” in different parts of the country.
Companies seem to be taking different approaches when dealing with the rise of remote work and its effects on office space, and as for the future of office space, only time will tell where we are all headed.
The co-working industry refers to an arrangement in which workers of different companies share an office space, allowing cost savings and convenience. But with remote work becoming the default in so many industries, many people are concerned that the co-working industry is dying, with real estate leaders even filing for bankruptcy in 2021.
WeWork is likely the most well-known company that uses the co-working model. And while the company had its fair share of hardship and scandal even before Covid-19 hurt their industry, it’s worth noting that several co-working companies along with WeWork have been exploring the same option of transitioning to a franchise model.
So, does this mean co-working spaces are now endangered? It’s possible, but no one can know for sure. Forbes economist Bill Conerly says that as we become more centered around remote work, people will be looking for the co-working experience.
Changes in commercial real estate
With all of these changes, it’s no surprise that the commercial real estate industry has faced struggles as a whole.
Real estate is commonly seen as a safe investment, but Covid-19 has made it very difficult for landlords who depend on rent to keep their business running. The restaurant business was hit specifically hard, with 57% of restaurants last year reporting that they couldn’t pay the month’s rent. Other communal spaces like yoga studios, beauty salons, etc. were also hit pretty hard.
This obviously matters as it concerns the future of offices because however things play out— if and when the real estate industry recovers from the pandemic— the majority of executives are still planning on consolidating office space or spreading out into smaller offices based on the detriment they experienced.
This means a long-lasting effect on the way we think about commercial real estate as an investment, and how we will see our office spaces change as a result.
Hybrid models give the best sense of the future of the office
Hybrid models seem like the best bet for post pandemic offices. It makes sense, working partially in person and partially from home gives people the best of both worlds: the opportunity for collaboration without sacrificing the flexibility that remote work offers.
As it seems, many people are hesitant to let go of pre-pandemic office structures altogether, with 87% of company leaders believing that the function of the office is important for brainstorming and team building, which means it’s considered the best space for creativity and innovation.
With that being said, executives aren’t dying to return to the office in the same capacity as the before days. Most leaders in business believe that a shift towards remote work has proven successful for the most part. So, the solution really seems to be a hybrid model.
Though not accounting for a majority, the highest number of executives believe three days a week to be the optimal balance in a hybrid model. Opinions on this subject are wide and diverse, so we should be prepared to see a different approach from each company.
It’s impossible to predict exactly how each company will move forward, or how approaches will change as more time passes after the heat of Covid-19 passes. However, if you’re on the job search, a company’s feelings towards remote work and how much it aligns to your own will be an important thing to consider.