The pandemic forced many businesses to switch to remote operations or to reduce their workforces. Even as businesses have reopened their workplaces, whether via full-time or hybrid models, a substantial number of employees have chosen to remain remote, leaving office spaces significantly less occupied. “Our experience is that the office market sector remains uncertain as companies sort out their operating costs, staff retention and availability, as well as profitability,” Young said.
Various property changes and incentives have become necessary to encourage employees to return if the employer deems that to be the route that makes the most sense for that business model. Further workplace incentives have included on-site childcare, cafeteria improvements and outdoor activity offerings. Some businesses have repurposed their spaces or added new amenities to accommodate updated workplace norms and foster hybrid environments. As such, businesses of varying sectors have a lot to consider when it comes to keeping their buildings operational in this evolving landscape.
“We have added state-of-the-art-gyms, restaurants and green spaces,” Coyne said. “We have seen office spaces remove large walls and big garage doors to make the environment airier and more open in keeping with the new aesthetic.” “This is the way of the future,” Coyne said. “These types of modifications are here to stay. The biggest hurdle businesses face in incentivizing commercial space is money, but these are some of the trends we will continue to see.”
These property changes have included adjusting office layouts to promote social distancing and improved privacy, upgrading HVAC systems to ensure fresh indoor air and providing improved technology to better communicate with remote workers. “The home has become a competitor to the office,” Coyne said. “The office must become a competitor to the home.”
“Our larger users have decreased the density of staff allowing for re-opening of their facilities,” Young said. “The density decrease has allowed for the implementation of staff rotation so the complete staff has access to the offices, but on an alternating schedule.” When repurposing plans do not include creating office upgrades that may be viewed as unattainable or unnecessary luxuries, commercial space employers have repurposed in other ways.
Protective partitions are repurposing tools used in retail and food service as well. Many retailers and restaurants have redesigned spaces to be visually less cluttered with clear partitions. Post-pandemic times have caused everyone to get creative. Even those who cannot renovate, enhance, or rotate have repurposed in some way. “Our smaller users have started to return to their offices in full force, largely out of necessity,” Young said. “But they have installed protective partitions to provide added protection to their staff.”
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