WFH is the New Norm: Let’s Just Embrace it

Future of work 29 Jul 2020 3 min read

Future of work 29 Jul 2020 5 min read

Remote work is here to stay. What does that mean for our office requirements, and for the real estate market? by Johnathan Teh

The “world’s largest work from home experiment.” A “ worldwide phenomenon.” “ The new normal.” Like many other people in the workforce, I too have been reading some of the headlines that have been coming out about working from work. I’ve had the opportunity to also speak to many founders, CEOs, office managers, and employees about the radically changing working landscape. One thing is clear: working from home is here to stay.

What I’ve seen across the ecosystem is that the tide has turned from “offering home-office as a cherry on top to becoming the norm”—and you’d be amiss if you didn’t continue doing so for the foreseeable future.

The office space will change. As somebody who cares deeply about what the office space means, I'm fascinated by what the effects will be for the current real estate market. We’re all experiencing a shift away from the “normal” office space that has radically altered the notion of what it means to work in the first place.

In the past, real estate strategy was primitive. By that, I don’t mean that it was negligible, and certainly not inefficient. In a way, it was quite simple, and based on a company’s exponential growth: if you were a company that was initially 10 people, but scaling quickly, you were probably thinking about getting an office space for 50-70 people. If you were a company that already had a workforce of around 50 people, you were probably looking at an office that had capacity for 100-120 people.

It all depended on how quick you wanted to grow and move. Fine-balancing these two variables was the cornerstone of a good real estate strategy for your company.

Today, the current pandemic has upended this exponential metric. It’s no longer about how you’re growing. In many cases, we’re seeing the opposite: companies are, rather unfortunately, descaling teams and resources, which has a knock on effect on both productivity and, of course, the office space itself.

And here’s how both aspects are affecting office requirements.

I think what should be on your mind if you’re an executive, CEO, or a manager is what the ratio should be between people who want to do home-office and people who want to come into the office and what kind of space works best for your company and team.

On top of that, here’s what I think makes sense:

1. Take the 35% approach. Think about the office space as a place where some of your employees can still work. Once you’ve taken the necessary social distancing precautions, take a gradual approach with offering a percentage of your employees to come to work at the office. Will it be 35% of the workforce? 50%? Listen to what your employees are telling you and adapt accordingly. But being gradual is key.

2. Take the 2-12 month shorter term leases. “I want to make a decision now.” I’ve heard these words from a lot of business leaders in the last couple of months. It's an unstable time in the real estate market, and confidence levels may be low. But what I always remind CEOs and office managers is that thinking short-term is optimal. Short-term leases are both prudent and logical, and most real estate companies at the moment are more than willing to work with you to find the ideal solution for your needs.

3. Focus on the core business—don’t get carried away with the ins and outs of the office space. What you shouldn’t do is concern yourself with all of the tiny office planning and in-house design. Don’t send your three interns to IKEA, and don’t send your poor office management to scout a new location on a spree. Get someone that can provide you the whole, ready to go, plug-and-play solution or get an expert to help with the end-to-end process. Optimising your time at the right place will be critical is more important for your team and business success.

We’re helping the Berlin office ecosystem before, during, and after COVID times. If you’re looking for an office space or need advice on finding the right space, talk to us.

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