Work-from-home (WFH) is here to stay—to some extent, at least. Surveys of both employees and employers anticipate that most workers will spend many or most days each week in the office, but with greater flexibility to WFH on certain tasks. A more flexible work schedule may reduce the need for overall office space. WFH may, furthermore, allow some offices to shift from the premium downtown locations to less expensive suburban spots or office parks, or smaller cities. This may reduce the premium pricing that downtown office buildings have been able to command in the major cities.
But offices are here to stay as well. There are still important benefits of face-to-face meetings that online video conferences cannot capture. Some activities are more successful in-person, like planning new projects, building new work teams, certain collaborative and creative efforts, or monitoring and disciplining underperforming employees. The informal meetings that happen by chance in the hallway often spark productive collaborations across work groups.
The trend toward densification of office space that occurred over the past decade will be reversed, as earlier moves toward less space per worker and greater use of shared workstations pose infection risks. The combination of flexible WFH but greater spacing within an office may result in more moderate changes in overall demand for space.