June 26, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has required office-using employers to engage in the largest work-from-home experiment in history, says JLL. After a three-month mandatory hiatus, corporations and their employees have largely adjusted to remote working, but new surveys point toward workers having a desire to get back to normal routines.
JLL’s new “The Future of Global Office Demand” report finds the physical office will maintain its importance for facilitating innovation and collaboration and, ultimately, employee health, well-being and productivity.
“The global pandemic has forced many employers to reconsider the role of the office in supporting business culture and purpose,” said JLL CEO Christian Ulbrich. “Real estate demand follows economic cycles, so we know these unprecedented times are also creating opportunities for companies across the globe to reimagine their workspace needs as they return to the office.”
Companies’ location strategies may also shift, the report says. In the short term, there will be an increased demand for some office-based activities to move to locally-accessible suburbs, as well as second and third-tier cities that make it easier for employees to connect with colleagues closer to home.
This convenience could also be an additional asset once the pandemic is in the rear-view mirror. A plurality of the 3,000 office workers JLL recently surveyed reported that the lack of a commute was what they enjoyed most about working from home.
Unprecedented though the current conditions may be, the office sector has recovered from downturns before, most recently the 2008 global financial crisis. JLL says that although the unknowns surrounding the pandemic and the potential for a second wave of outbreaks make it difficult to predict the recovery timeframe, the ingenuity of employers to enable productivity with alternative staffing and socially distant workspaces offer an encouraging outlook for office demand.
Offices encourage collaboration, innovation, mentoring and team building, all quantities that technology struggles to replicate. In fact, the same JLL survey found that 58% of office workers missed the office, a sentiment expressed by an even larger percentage of those 35 and under.
Human interaction and socializing with colleagues were the most missed element of the office (44%) followed by collective face-to-face work (29%) according to the survey.
“Density requirements will change and there will be an evolution in how office space is used, designed and developed,” said Neil Murray, JLL’s global CEO, corporate solutions. “But history, and our latest office worker survey, shows that the office is not going away anytime soon.”
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