April 28, 2020 / By Dave Dickerson, President/Partner

Planning for the Post-Pandemic Office Market

Across industries and regions, the coronavirus pandemic is disrupting life as we know it. Its effects will echo through our economy for years to come. At Miller-Valentine Group, we are using this opportunity to study industry projections, research market trends, and apply evidence-based best practices to help our customers navigate the unknowns and plan for the future.

No one can say for sure what the economy will look like on the other side of the coronavirus pandemic. One thing that is certain: companies will be taking a hard look at the potential cost-savings of work-from-home arrangements.

After a trial by fire, many organizations are going to find that remote work offers advantages above and beyond employee satisfaction. They may also realize that they don’t need to maintain as much square footage as they thought. Building owners could see a rolling wave of vacancies as leases come up for renewal. And developers and investors may need to look beyond the traditional commercial office to maintain sustainable returns.

The good news? Opportunities will abound for creative thinking that strikes the right balance between essential corporate space and a dispersed workforce. To position themselves for the long-term changes to come, commercial office stakeholders should start thinking now about how to design or convert offices into shared space, what office layouts to invest in, and which amenities are going to be attractive over the long term.

Converting to Coworking

If companies start shrinking their footprint, coworking spaces could sweep in to fill the gap. Coworking spaces have been on the rise for nearly a decade. But post-pandemic, we expect demand for office hoteling and flexible workspaces to gain steam.

To be competitive, coworking spaces will need to include a variety of community as well as meeting and conference spaces. While they cater to freelancers, contractors, and companies that simply need less space, flexible platforms should still have collaborative and creative spaces to attract clients.

Technology can offer an added benefit by defining the availability and coordination of spaces to accommodate clients. Companies like Greenspace Technologies use analytics to offer insight into traffic flow, occupancy patterns, and conference space availability and utilization. This data can then be leveraged to inform future planning for space and building needs.

More Space for Employees

Office layouts that are more generous to employees are also likely to flourish post-pandemic. Over the past two decades, office layouts have focused on squeezing as much space out of a floorplan as possible. Cubicle sizes have shrunk and, in some cases, been replaced by benching and other open-space formats.

We believe the trend will swing the other way to support long-term social distancing strategies. Companies will be looking for ways to add more space between employees, possibly by increasing cubicle sizes and adding or increasing the wall size between them. Naturally, this will require more square footage—but that doesn’t necessarily mean an expanded footprint. Companies could find that they can expand cubicle size within their existing space by allowing more employees to work from home.

Amenities with Staying Power

No matter how much of the workforce remains remote even after shelter-in-place rules are lifted, employees are still going to have cause for traveling to the office. Communal spaces will become even more central to creating a collaborative work environment that attracts and retains employees.

Meeting rooms, lounges, cafes, and other gathering spaces will take on heightened importance in the coming decade. Everything from technology capabilities to furniture selection to lighting and finishes will need to be designed with this new normal in mind. By the way, this holds true for coworking environments as much as for corporate spaces.

This is a lot to think about for companies, landlords, and developers. Time will tell how these trends play out. In the meantime, we are here to help you plan for the future, be it renovating an existing space or launching a brand-new development.

How can we help you solve your space and building needs challenges? Contact us today at 877.684.7687 or [email protected].