This is Not The End of Office Real Estate

May 15, 2020

In his third article published by Forbes, Founder and Managing Principal, Dan Dokovic, tackles the arguments suggesting the end of office space as we know it in a post-pandemic world:

A myriad of publications have already pronounced office space a trend of the past as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The most publicized reasons focus on a postapocalyptic world where people do not want to be around people: Office buildings contain UV lights to disinfect all areas at night, and employees are placed into rooms with glass dividers and do not even think about an office social gathering. Commercial real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield went even further by introducing a new concept called the “6 feet office” in the Netherlands. In this concept, employees are kept at a six-foot distance and assured by a certificate stating that all measures have been taken to implement a virus-safe office.

The second-most mentioned argument is that people are getting used to working from their homes, and companies will want to save money by allowing their employees to continue working at home. The argument goes further, noting that as the technology is developing and employees are getting used to work-life flexibility, they will want to work from home. This idea sounds like a win-win: Companies save money on real estate by using expanded office space or employees’ homes, and employees have a better work-life balance by working from home.

While this crisis will have an impact on real estate, and office space will be reimagined, this health crisis is not an event that I believe will make offices irrelevant. In the past few years prior to the pandemic, we learned a lot about what building occupiers crave in their workspaces. Employees thrive on daylight, community, active living and nutrition. The most popular and best performing buildings contained large windows, community managers that scheduled group meetups and idea exchanges, yoga classes, and nutritional education. Why did these concepts attract us to lease space in new modern buildings? Because humans are social beings who crave physical connections.

Postapocalyptic office space will not work because it does not foster what humans need. Humans thrive off each other; we mirror emotions and body movements. We study people’s faces. We hug for comfort, and we exchange ideas and grow by playing off our peers. Office buildings, much like restaurants and cafes, are vehicles for social interaction. It is not a coincidence that the office and café/bar cultures were merging before cities went into lockdown.

By isolating ourselves, we are potentially creating another form of disease. Science has demonstrated for decades that social interaction is critical for mental health and longevity. According to one study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, both the amount and quality of social relationships one has impacts their mental health, health behavior, physical health and mortality risk. People who are persistently lacking in social contacts are more likely to experience elevated levels of physical stress and inflammation, which in turn affects bodily functions.

Article on Forbes here.