Will Offices Make A Comeback Post-Pandemic? 15 Real Estate Pros Share Their Insights

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues, so does the debate of whether companies should move to a permanent remote work model. According to Pew Research, 71% of American workers worked from home in 2020, with 54% of them saying they hope to continue to work from home after the pandemic has subsided.

While the percentage of home-based workers is higher, some still believe office-based work yields more benefits for companies and their employees. This has led companies to wonder what they should do with their existing office space.

Below, 15 Forbes Real Estate Council members weighed in on the pros and cons of remote work and office-based work, and whether they believe the demand for office space will ever return to pre-pandemic levels.

1. Office Demand Will Return With Different Parameters

The desire for people to co-occupy offices may be higher than ever, but with different parameters. Office demand will return because of the need for interaction after a long isolation and the desire for that interaction to be in person, not over video. But workers also like the freedom of spending more time alone and with family that working from home affords. I believe schedules will be modified to accommodate both. – Ralph DiBugnara, Home Qualified

2. New Offices Will Center Around Collaborative Spaces And Flexibility

Demand for office will absolutely return, but it will likely look very different. Many companies are already realizing the benefit and value of the hybrid work model, allowing employees to range from fully remote to fully in office or any combination in between. Offices will likely be more focused around collaborative, huddle and meeting spaces versus dedicated offices, but it will bounce back. – Matt Weirich, Realync


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3. Productivity And Customer Service Concerns Will Push The Return

While releasing office space may appear beneficial from a financial perspective, working from home poses challenges in other areas of business. Productivity and customer service are being negatively impacted, and employers may find that the cost of office space is a small price to pay for growth in revenue and customer satisfaction. I think demand for office space will return. – Michelle Risi, Royal LePage Connect Realty

4. Remote Companies May Use Less Office Space Than Before

Office space has value for businesses and is not going away. Companies that found success in a remote working environment may find that they need less office space than before. Other companies may need a physical location to run their business effectively. – Chris Bounds, Invested Agents

5. The New Business Landscape Will Feature Centralized Offices And Flexible Workspaces

It is inevitable that a return to collective, in-person work will rebound, and with it a move back to centralized offices. That said, remote and part-time work will be a permanent feature of the new business landscape. Knowledge workers will continue to benefit from having quiet workspaces in their homes to offer flexibility and comfort. – Megan Micco, Compass

6. Employers May Opt To Save By Downsizing Office Space

First, many employees can work from home effectively, so the total space once needed isn’t necessary. Second, employers will save massively by downsizing. This is a win/win for both parties. We are in the first quarter of change for offices, which will see more downsizing upon lease renewals and renegotiations over the next several years. – Ken McElroy, MC Companies

7. Most Companies Are Looking At Hybrid Work Models

The way that companies utilize space is changing, but office space will continue to be important. Most companies are looking at hybrid models which will provide workers with the flexibility of working remotely part-time while still having “in the office” time so that in-person collaboration and culture-building can occur. If anything, this pandemic has shown how critical in-person interaction really is. – Jonathan Keyser, Keyser

8. Work-From-Home Limitations Will Increase The Desire To Return

The demand for office space is going to return. Most people have realized the limitations of working from home. A lot of industries are coming around to more of a hybrid model. Working from home has been very popular in IT and other sectors. Even with significant innovation, there are still limitations in online collaboration in different industries. Human interaction is sometimes a big key in some areas. – Chander Mishra, Blue Ocean Capital LLC

9. The Return To Office Will Be Faster Than We Think

I believe the return to office will be faster than we think in a post-pandemic world. There may be some adjustments and more flexibility with remote and hybrid work options, but nothing can replace face-to-face interactions for building a strong company culture and increasing creativity. – Elik Jaeger, SuiteSpot Technology

10. Technology Will Augment ‘Real Life’ Office Interactions

“Real Life” will not be replaced by tech, but rather augmented by it. We’re a social species, so in real-life interaction is critical. Zoom and software can make asynchronous collaboration more seamless, but tech itself cannot build company culture and community. An office of some shape can help—though what that looks like for each company will look different based on company culture. – Benjamin Pleat, Cobu 

11. Many Employers And Employers Will Want To Return To The Office

I do believe that demand for office space will return. Working from home was a nice option when it was needed, but I believe people overall like to personally interact with co-workers. I also believe employers like to have their teams in one place, so as to foster community, innovation and productivity. Internally we are returning the office, and it has been well-received. – Steve Alkandros, New England Management Group/AR Property Services, LLC

12. Demand For Office Space Will Vary By Location

Demand for office space will return in different locations. Central Business District locations in second- or third-tier cities will likely lag as companies grow in smaller suburban spaces following the Covid office migration to single-family homes. NYC, LA, Austin, San Francisco and Miami will continue their competition to draw big tech, and other cities like San Antonio or DC will join the hunt. – Kristin Geenty, The Geenty Group, Realtors

13. Companies Will Take Advantage To Cut Costs

Covid caused a major shift from urban to rural living. Remote workers have seen great benefits from the work-at-home model as have employers. Remote working is not new but was forced into the mainstream, and many companies will take advantage to cut their costs. – David Candelora, Prime Management LLC

14. Office Demand Will Soon Return To Pre-Pandemic Levels

The technology for working remotely has been around for several years. The reason why it was not more widespread was that it is inefficient and unsustainable. As the pandemic wanes, the need for a central office, training, coordination and collaboration will eclipse the hybrid plan. In under five years, offices will have to be back to where they were. – Craig Romm, HelmsleySpear

15. Short-Term Office Demand Will Increase

Psychologically, I think many people are looking to get back to the office just to interact with their teammates. Additionally, most businesses will provide a temporary increase in interpersonal space to maintain social distancing, which will also serve to increase demand in the short term. – Eric Shirley, Four Oaks Capital

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