The Remote Ripple Effect: COVID-19 is Re-Shaping Future Office Requirements

Chicago Real Estate

By James A. Schnur, CCIM
President and Designated Managing Broker
Integrated Real Estate Solutions

The return to in-person office working has been slow and cautious, and for good reason. COVID-19 unapologetically upended the standard of “business as usual”, and has made many office workers gun-shy about setting foot in a physical space within arms-reach of co-workers once again. Business-owners have been diligent in taking employee concerns into account when considering how best to approach getting workers back into a central office space, and the solutions they have come up with have been reshaping what features will become popular in future offices in general. 

Remote Working and Reduced Communal Space

Overall, business-owners have come to accept that there is a certain percentage of workers that find it more comfortable to work from home, and that the work being completed is still on par with the quality produced in office, according to preliminary research from Deloitte. While some of these employees will be able to transition to full work-from-home status, many will still need to set aside days for necessary in-office days. To accommodate this, employers have begun adopting plans for hoteling desks — semi-permanent seating that can be easily cleaned and shared between multiple employees, depending on which days they are in the work space. In turn, this allows employers to reevaluate the true amount of square footage necessary for their business, potentially downgrading to better utilize the reduced permanent staff without taking a hit to overall profit.

Of course, these shifts in space will need to be balanced against the need to adhere to social distancing requirements. Not only will this affect overall occupancy, this will also adjust physical lay-outs, as additions that were growing in popularity now pose certain safety risk and logistic issues. Spaces like shared phone rooms and small conference rooms will need to be re-evaluated as viable choices, as the increased cleaning necessary to make these spaces useful could prove to be prohibitively disruptive and costly. Also up on the chopping block are shared kitchens, particularly when shared between multiple businesses on the same floor, as the risk presented by one business not maintaining the same health and safety standards as another pose too great a risk to employees.

Virtual Visitation and Drive-Thru Viewings

COVID has also introduced dramatic changes in the way spaces are able to be scouted. The way business-owners will be able to tour prospective properties is shifting away from physical tours, and turning to either digital viewings, or far more elaborate choices. In some instances, in warehouse spaces, some developers are offering drive-thru tours, where brokers and prospective tenants were guided into the warehouse still in their vehicles, driving from checkpoint to checkpoint to receive hand-outs and information from a welcoming committee and guided signage. Whether these dramatic shifts in experiential touring will catch on as a popular alternative over developers ramping up robust virtual tours with 360 degree photos and VR integrations is yet to be seen, and is largely dependent on the continually evolving circumstances of the COVID spread and response. 

The prevalence of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus has understandably shifted what many business-owners are looking for in their office and work spaces. Trying to come to terms with how this virus will create lasting change for the entire workforce throughout the U.S., it is important to remember that making decisions about relocating, leasing, and buying new office spaces does not need to be a decision made alone. Enlisting the expertise of a commercial property tenant representative such as Integrated Real Estate Solutions, Inc. can dramatically help sort through the issues raised by these uncertain times, and help steer you toward the best location for your business’s future success. 

Integrated Real Estate Solutions, Inc. provides clients with the in-depth knowledge and experience that is critical to determine the right path to your next move, lease renewal, or strategic repositioning of your real estate portfolio. Contact us or call 847.550.0160 today about your needs, and put our success to work for you

Author: Jim Schnur

Jim Schnur is the President and Designated Managing Broker of Integrated Real Estate Solutions, Inc. Jim started the firm in 2003 after almost 20 years negotiating and overseeing real estate transactions at Hewlett Packard Co. and Agilent Technologies, Inc.