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Will The Work-From-Home Revolution Shrink Your Office?

Managers generally desire face time. A recent report by SHRM showed 72% would prefer to have all their subordinates working in the office. A majority of bosses also acknowledged they consider remote workers more easily replaceable than on-site workers and think remote work is detrimental to employees' career objectives.

White cautions against drawing conclusions from employee surveys because respondents are still under duress from the pandemic. "We simply don't really know that when the fear of virus goes away whether people's feelings around coming back into the office will change," White said, "but there is still a fairly significant need that most employees, and certainly most companies, see for the office in a very profound way." Some clients and companies White knows are exploring shrinking their offices, he said, "but broadly speaking we are not seeing that."

Tension over returning to the office is a chicken-and-egg dilemma for many who are vaccinated and might come back voluntarily if others did too, he said. "You've got to have a groundswell of people to be here for more people to come."

Offices meant to appeal to them should have more "we" space than "me" space, he said, places where people can team up and work side by side or unwind together eating lunch or watching a sporting event.

"There is a realization now that the office space needs to compete with your home office," he said, because it's been proven people can easily perform many tasks remotely. "What they can't do is get the social engagement, cultural engagement, training and coaching" that happens at work.

The size and configuration of offices coming out of the pandemic work-from-home experiment will vary widely by industry and individual firms as they reassess how they want to use their space, said Jeff Ingham of real estate services firm JLL, who tracks global office patterns.

Well-heeled, profitable firms in some cases have been keeping their offices the same size but reconfiguring them to keep the people who do come to the office more comfortably distanced from one another.

"Typically, lower-margin companies" are the ones focusing on reducing space, he said.

Some companies with higher profit margins also see this work-from-home era as an opportunity to shed space, but are holding off on making decisions as the pandemic plays out, figuring that employees' feelings will come into better focus when the world is more safe, Ingham said. With its lease expiring, MedPoint didn't have the luxury of waiting and chose a smaller office in a nicer building at the Sherman Oaks Galleria in Los Angeles that offers employees amenities such as restaurants, a gym and movie theaters, said real estate broker Greg Lovett of Cresa, who represents MedPoint.

Some MedPoint workers with different schedules will share desks and computers when they come to the office, and some will not after the move at the end of the year.

"If they aren't OK with sharing a desk, we'll accommodate that," Lewenfus said. "We want to honor employees' requests and needs."

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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