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By: Natalie Price
After the pandemic brought a swift and dramatic shift from a majority working in offices to a majority working remotely, it’s easy to think this trend might continue indefinitely. But anyone who believes the office market is permanently dead due to the COVID-19 pandemic should remember the only thing certain in life is change.
Big tech companies have made major adjustments to their work policies, USA Today recently reported. For example, Facebook plans for more remote work for its 45,000 employees even when COVID-19 is no longer a threat that requires most of them to work from home. Since the coronavirus disrupted office life, even companies with fewer resources and slower-moving cultures are likely to follow, the article noted.
"Many companies are learning that their workers are just as or even more productive working from home," Andy Challenger, senior vice president of staffing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told the paper.
But while there are certainly benefits to working remotely, working from home during the pandemic is less advantageous.
Satisfaction levels from working from home during the pandemic depend greatly on personal situation. Working parents with kids stuck at home who try to balance Wi-Fi usage and dueling conference calls find the situation far more challenging than couples whose kids are grown and out of the house. But it can also be a stressful for two working professionals living in a small apartment not to feel as if they are constantly under each other’s feet. And the sense of isolation and disconnection for single working professionals can also take its toll.
Bottom line, there is a big difference in being forced to work from home during a pandemic and having the opportunity to work remotely – wherever that might be.
We believe one of the biggest long-term effects on the workplace and the office market will be a greater emphasis on flexibility. Most companies will likely offer more flexibility on where and when its employees get their work done. Working remotely some days and in the office other days seems a likely scenario.
Bringing teams together in an office can foster a shared vision, increase creativity, provide training, build culture and togetherness, and sometimes lead to smarter solutions and better results for clients. Our business, like many others, is based on building trust and personal relationships— something difficult to do on a Teams or Zoom call. For all the benefits of working remotely, there are times when an office is an invaluable asset. While there will be short term pain in almost every sector of real estate, we believe there will be long-term gain.
The New York Times recently published a story about China’s early stages of return to normalcy.
“In Shanghai, restaurants and bars in many neighborhoods are teeming with crowds. In Beijing, thousands of students are heading back to campus for the fall semester.” it said. “In Wuhan, where the coronavirus emerged eight months ago, water parks and night markets are packed elbow to elbow, buzzing like before.
“While the United States and much of the world are still struggling to contain the coronavirus pandemic, life in many parts of China has in recent weeks become strikingly normal. Cities have relaxed social distancing rules and mask mandates, and crowds are again filling tourist sites, movie theaters and gyms.”
While it might be months before the U.S. is ready to reopen completely, I find this hopeful. The best advice we can offer our clients is not to make long-term decisions based on COVID-19.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help your real estate needs, get in touch at NPrice@allisonpr.com
Natalie Price is a Senior Vice President with the Real Estate team where she focuses on the entitlement, development and marketing of commercial real estate.