Publications

- May 1, 2021: Vol. 8, Number 5

The office is poised to live on: Report finds vast majority of companies plan to repopulate their space

by Mike Consol

One of the most popular guessing games being played for months by real estate investors and operators has been predicting when (or if) companies will return to the office — and to what extent. New insight was provided on that front, based on a national survey that culled the thoughts of more than 350 business executives.

The survey, conducted by LaSalle Network, a staffing and recruiting firm, found that:

  • 70 percent of respondents plan to phase employees back into the office
  • 77 percent plan to use a hybrid model that brings employees back to the office part-time while working from home the rest of the week
  • A majority do not plan to mandate employee vaccinations

What isn’t clear is whether the hybrid model will bring employees back just a day or two per week, or more often than that. Also, will all employees be brought into the office on the same days in the interest of creating camaraderie and synergy that has been lacking during the use of a completely remote workforce to help tamp down the spread of COVID-19. That strategy would nullify a company’s option of reducing its office footprint. Also questionable is whether employees will be comfortable working with colleagues who have decided not to get vaccinated. For urban employees who rely on mass transit, there is the additional question of whether they will feel safe traveling on trains, subways and buses.

LaSalle Network founder and CEO Tom Gimbel, speaking on the CNBC program Squawk Box, said: “Two of the top issues that companies are worried about is, number one, re-entry and onboarding of employees — getting them going from working in a really quiet space at home, to now being in open offices or a bullpen environment — and, number two, a lot of CEOs and heads of HR we were talking to came back and said they are worried about the conflict between management and staff over what are appropriate conditions for a return to the office. As we get to lower unemployment — and companies are hiring more now than I’ve ever seen in my 25 years — it’s an employees’ market. The concern is, will employees leave if they are asked to come in too often?”

Also, with the majority of employers not requiring vaccination, those who have been vaccinated might feel put at risk by non-
vaccinated colleagues. In that regard, Gimbel says companies have been waiting for a rapid test that gives results in 15 minutes to ensure employees reporting to the office are not infected.

“I think the rapid tests are going to be the game changer,” Gimbels says, “when every company has those stacked up like tissue boxes behind the receptionist desk. Then we're in our whole new situation.”

 

Mike Consol (m.consol@irei.com) is editor of Real Assets Adviser. Follow him on Twitter @mikeconsol to read his latest postings.

 

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