Will Coronavirus be the end of the Corporate Office?

The world is a fairly uncertain place right now. And, with all of this uncertainty, many of us are trying to establish a routine for what will hopefully be a short amount of time. For a good portion of the workforce, this involves working from our homes instead of the corporate office.  This has many of us in the field of commercial real estate asking if the Coronavirus pandemic will lead to the end of the corporate office.

While the pandemic is most likely the end of the office as we know it (stay tuned for an additional post covering this topic!), most industry experts agree that if anything, the workplace is going to matter more than ever once we return to normal. Let’s explore some of the reasons behind this belief:

Socialization is a primitive and hard-wired human need.

  • There are significant psychological advantages to co-location and face-to-face meetings.  For instance, facial nuances, gestures, body language and tone of voice can’t be fully communicated – even via video. And, these key behaviors are vital to successful understanding and collaboration.
  • Humans need physical and social contact to grow, learn, engage and stay physically and mentally healthy. Communication and relationships only improve with person-to-person interactions. These interactions create something called “exchange relationships” – relationships that are built on informal negotiations, favors, promises or understandings.  Basically, these interactions are what empower bonding and reinforce trust between team members.

Office work is especially important for younger employees.

  • Younger employees with less experience benefit from the nurturing guidance that older and more experienced team members can provide.
  • Working together in-person helps create a culture of belonging and can set expectations on boundaries that can help when working remotely later.
  • For new employees, there’s no substitute for in-person interaction when it comes to providing an understanding of an organization’s culture.

Remote working isn’t inclusive to all.

  • Not all employees have the resources needed to successfully work from home – particularly those who struggle with access to technology or live in an area with unreliable wireless or cellular service. 
  • Remote working is detrimental to employees with extroverted personality types and can even negatively impact their emotional and physical health.
  • Perhaps most importantly, many jobs simply can’t be done remotely. (We’re looking at you, essential employees!)

People want to feel safe, valued, healthy and empowered.

  • A well-designed office provides an uplifting environment that can’t be found in a small bedroom or on a kitchen table.
  • Office space creates a company’s identity and reinforces a sense of belonging for employees.
  • State-of-the-art technology can be housed at an office location for equitable use by all employees.
  • Ergonomic furniture is a staple for many companies and leads to better employee health.  Most home offices aren’t equipped with furniture meant to support healthy working styles, leading to neck, shoulder and back pain as a result.
  • With some companies closing their doors permanently as a result of the pandemic, the war to attract talent will only intensify. Office space will remain a key tool for attraction and retention.

Offices help businesses stay practical, efficient and profitable.

  • Getting tired of conference calls and Brady Bunch-style video chats? Then you’ve likely come to the realization that onsite workers are simply easier to manage.
  • In an office environment, decisions are made in real-time by people in the same room. This speeds up results.
  • Working onsite fosters innovation and collaboration.  Hallway run-ins and breaktimes lead to impromptu team meetings where great ideas can be discussed.

While we can only speculate on what the post-pandemic future looks like, we can still assure you that the corporate office will always have its place. Remote working has become a necessary solution for this current emergency, but the basic human need for interaction and socialization will always make physical locations a necessary tool for businesses.

Perhaps we’re not too far from a future where a combination of on-site and remote working habits lead to an improved sense of work-life balance for many employees. If there’s a silver lining to the Coronavirus pandemic, that will likely be it.

Some sources we used for this post:

Open-Plan Offices & Shared Spaces were the “Disruptors” of the Decade.  Then a Virus Arrived

IDEAS FOR LEADERS: Remote Working vs. Office Working

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