Perhaps more than any other sector, the health of urban office space has massive implications for other areas of commercial real estate. From Midtown Manhattan to downtown LA, and many other central business districts across North America, the traditional ecosystem of these areas is built around a daily influx of thousands of white-collar workers who patronize retail shops, eat at restaurants and stay at nearby hotels.
With that natural order now upended by the pandemic, office owner-operators – as well as the neighboring businesses and the cities they call home – are left wondering how to move forward.
As office-based companies are increasingly well aware, many former commuters have embraced the flexibility and efficiency of remote work – and thus report little to no desire to return to the office full-time. In response, most company policies have hovered around the middle ground – a so-called “hybrid” system that requires employees to report to a physical office a limited number of days per week, while working remotely the remainder of their time.
For many workers, a full-fledged return to the office will be largely optional, and office landlords and property managers will need to think carefully about how to create a truly desirable space that will incentivize and optimize the more limited time spent there. This will require much more than a safe, healthy and virus-free environment – it means creating a unique ecosystem that offers an experience that’s worth a sometimes lengthy or frustrating commute.
In-office or in-asset perks like free artisanal coffee or an under-used tenant lounge might not be enough to entice workers back to the office – as these offerings don’t represent a significant enough difference to what they have access to at home. Instead, prospective employees weighing whether to make regular visits to their work will consider many of the same factors they might when choosing a home – access to rapid transit, bike lanes, easy parking, restaurants to eat with coworkers, or unique retail options not easily replicated elsewhere or online.
Using Local Logic’s Location scores, office owners, users and city planners can better understand how to create a dynamic mix of office, retail, green space and other components that will help workers optimize the time they spend back in the office, and return the energy that has been lost in so many business districts over the last 18 months.
Local Logic’s one-click market reports may help office landlords and owner-operators to entice tenants and employees back to the office by highlighting what their site’s neighborhood has to offer. Employees who joined companies during the pandemic or who have not visited the office may not be aware of what the area has to offer. For those who live in less amenitized areas, the comparison of the office to their home may make a compelling case, or simply show others a new perspective on the options and experience available to them near the office. The pandemic has had a major effect on many workers’ preferences over the last 18 months, and having a precise, data-informed sense of how they evaluate space is crucial to the office sector’s recovery.
While the pandemic has appeared to reverse a more than decade-old pattern of flight toward city centers, urban areas still hold immense appeal for most North Americans. However, they will need to be reimagined to recapture a critical mass of workers and begin to rebuild the vital neighborhoods that depend on them.
Thankfully, today’s owners, developers and planners can rely on Local Logic’s digital twin technology and other data-based tools to be more precise in how they redesign these environments to suit a new and evolving work culture. Their choices will prove extremely important not only for the workplace of the future, but also for our ability to sustain many of our most vibrant and iconic cities.
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