CRE Opinion: The Future of Office Remains Unknown

10/02/20 | Thought Leadership

The last several months have been certifiably crazy. There have been daily changes to how we work, where we work, and what we work on. Suffice it to say, this world pandemic has left and will continue to leave lasting changes to the office environment.

I have been on more online meetings through too many different service providers (I think I’m up to eight different types now) discussing, predicting, and debating the future. But Heraclitus had it right back in 500 BCE when he said, “change is the only constant in life.” The only thing different with the change in 2020 is that this change was fast, unpredictable, and chaotic. It wasn’t a slow glacial grind creating lasting valleys and rivers. It was more akin to an asteroid.

One thing I will not do is try to predict exactly how we all use the office in six months, two years, or a decade from now. This pandemic has likely caused some, or many, to relook at work from home potentials. To what scale, I’m unsure.

Yahoo!, IBM, and others have had large percentages of their employees work from home in the past and ultimately decided to bring them back to the office. Facebook has stated that half of its employees could be working from home by 2025. However, last week Facebook finalized a lease at the James Farley building in Midtown Manhattan for 703,000 square feet.

Clearly, well-located, key real estate positions are still an essential strategy for companies. Perhaps this pandemic has simply shown that, based on the technologies currently afforded to us, a work-from-home approach can be a component of where employees work.

However, I think one significant component is missing in this entire conversation about the ability to work from home based on new and improving technologies. That component is the people: you and me. People are not meant to be alone. We are not intended to be siloed in our homes. We are meant to be in community. To relate. To interact. And to thrive. Can we do some of that via a webcam to keep our businesses going in the short term? Sure. But can the essence of life truly be communicated and lived while a screen? I don’t believe so.

Real estate has been and will continue to be an essential part of the corporate strategy instead of just a cost center because, ultimately, it serves the most critical part of every company: its people.

Ryan McManigal is the senior vice president of development for KDC.

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