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Perspective & Considerations from Raleigh Office Space Broker Patrick Blackley
I think we can all agree that 2020 was one for the record books. There were so many adjustments we had to make to just about every aspect of our lives that it’s sometimes hard to remember what things were like B.C. (before COVID-19, of course).
Fortunately, thanks to modern medical advances, it seems like ‘normalcy’ is upon us, and I – for one – could not be happier that we’ve come so far from just a year ago. In the commercial real estate industry, however, we’ve been hearing examples of companies that may decide to forego their office space altogether in favor of long-term work-from-home policies.
In my line of business, specializing in office space in Raleigh, NC, for a number of reasons I think it’s important to address some potential downsides of a decision like that.
1. While some people have tried to make the case for increased productivity at home, I’d suggest there are probably just as many people who are not able to be as productive while working in a home setting. In fact, in a survey by online professional network provider Blind that was released in January, 48% of respondents reporting their work productivity decreasing. The number of distractions at home can be astounding, and it’s becoming more frequent (and apparent) that frustrations resulting from stressors in the home environment are spilling over into work interactions.
2. Humans are inherently social creatures. It’s hard to recall a time before we received our information from social media channels, but there did exist this concept of ‘watercooler talk’ that helped us connect with one another while also expanding our horizons. Unfortunately, Zoom just doesn’t cut it when trying to replicate this important social construct.
3. Those who are new to our industry or new to the workforce in general are truly missing out. Without the possibility of watching their managers or others in a dynamic office environment interact and lead, they aren’t seeing all of the potential avenues for their growth or being afforded the opportunities to experience meaningful interactions with those who might be considered mentors. Scott Corfe, research director of the Social Market Foundation (an independent public policy thinktank) said: “We don’t yet fully understand the productivity implications of homeworking. For example, it is very difficult to train and mentor staff remotely – a lot of learning in the workplace happens informally by observation.” Along the same lines, I’ve heard talk about how some companies are considering sending portions of their workforces to WFH for good, and I worry about the opportunities they will miss out on that others who are based in the office may be getting. FOMO at the most basic of levels.
4. I think we all knew the tidal wave of mental health impacts from this prolonged period of stress was going to catch up with us, but did any of us stop to think that all the extra time at home might be one of the causes of the added stress? It’s hard to fully shut-down work and show up for those in your personal life when work and home are the same place. Referring to our kids as co-workers was cute for a few weeks, but you can truly see the impacts that months upon months of stress has taken on all of us nowadays.
5. Does anyone else miss those moments in between home and work in the morning when you could get your head right and prioritize what you’d be doing during the day ahead? Similarly, does anyone else long for the commute between work and home again in the evenings when you can reflect on your day while also down-shifting into your at-home persona? One of the most surprising elements I missed in a work-from-home lifestyle were those periods of time where I get to reflect and reset. Unfortunately, the shuffle from bedroom to makeshift office doesn’t afford the same opportunity. Believe it or not, a National Bureau of Economic Research study of more than 3 million people found that the amount of time employees spend in meetings has increased by 13% since the pandemic started, and the average workday has become 48 minutes longer.
Sure, there was definitely a compelling reason for those of us who could work-from-home to do so during the past year. But given all the progress we’ve made with the vaccine rollout the recent mask restrictions lifted by the CDC, it’s becoming more and more safe for people to get back into the workplace.
Before deciding to call it quits on the traditional office landscape, I’d encourage employers and employees alike to consider all that they’d be missing out on. There’s something to be said for the feelings of purpose and meaning that human beings feel from going to work and earning a living, all the while supplying that deeper need of human connection.
Are you dreaming about getting back into the office? Foundry Commercial can help find your next office space for lease in Raleigh (or beyond into other markets!), so feel free to reach out and I’ll be happy to show some great options.