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Disrupted workspaces, deranged communting – how office work will change in the midst of the Coronavirus


COVID-19 has uprooted the traditional 9-to-5 job and commute—seemingly overnight. Unions may not particularly like it and some large companies are reluctant to adapt. 

But many of these changes have actually been in the works for years, and tech companies among others have already embraced the distributed workforce and workspace paradigms for quite some time.

Trends that may have changed the way people work in 5–15 years are starting to become commonplace now. We will see the rise of the flexible workspace as an established work space model.

Image Source: Imago Images

Trends in a nutshell

Companies quickly replaced in-person operations with technology as COVID-19 spread throughout the world. Flexibility in where employees want to work. became commonplace in 2020. For a while, the pivot helped companies adapt to the new normal. But the home office, only, is not a desirable option for most workers as less than 20 % of the workforce want to work from home alone indefinitely.

Solutions to mix home office with company office and change how the company office looks like range from distancing, de-densifying a company’s workforce to providing flexible workspace options to employees close to home for comfort.

Flexibility in where employees like to work coupled with nonstandard work models could give workers and their employers a way to innovate safely in-person while supporting some work from home abilities.

What the future office space could look like

  1. Better access to multiple, city-wide offices that allow employees to choose the closest workspace to home
  2. Offices that adapt to a company’s needs, including flexible commitments and reduced upfront costs are two office space trends to come.
  3. A more safety-focused way to work with companies investing in a safety-prioritized space where employees can professionally distance while collaborating in-person,
  4. Work in  frequently cleaned common areas with reinforced health and safety measures and signage.

Increasingly, workers want a space that prioritizes their health and safety while also being close to home.

People also want to travel less for work, with an office closer to home. Over half of respondents from a New York study said they would feel “somewhat” or “very” uncomfortable traveling far distances to work without a viable vaccine.

They strongly preferred an office within biking distance or less than 20 minutes commuting by car or public transport. According to WeWork, the desirable commute to work is now 15 minutes or less. Flexible workspaces may be a way to support employees in this area.

The property and office space markets

Effects of the pandemic have already been profound and can be seen in various areas of the commercial office and office space renting markets, among them:

Flex Space industry hard hit by the pandemic

Flexible office space providers such as WeWork, Design Offices, and Spaces exhibited very strong growth in recent years. Due to the pandemic, however, these operators suffered severe setbacks as customers worked from home and the demand for space declined. Flexible office space operators are increasingly subletting space.

Coronavirus as a rental-incentive driver

Prices for rent and office space have peaked and tend to go down with rental incentives offered by landlords rising strongly. By the end of 2020, incentive increases of half a month for prime locations, and one month for non-central locations have become the norm in big German cities. While Berlin, Düsseldorf and, Munich still have the lowest level of rent incentives, at around one-to-two months’ rent in prime locations office incentives offered in the peripheral region markets may rise to as much as six months’ rent by the end of 2020.

Pandemic currently stopping projects not yet under construction

“8% (565,000 sqm) of all development projects (7.4 million sqm) with a completion date of 2023 have already been delayed in Germany. Half of this is corona-related. In Munich, up to 8 % of development projects could be delayed due to coronavirus – equivalent to around 140,000 sqm by 2023.

Coronavirus is acting as an accelerator for new models of work.

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