What’s Really Going to Happen to Office Users?

By Jenn Limoges, CCIM | March 17, 2021

NAI Cascade brokers have been privy to interesting shifts in behavior with high-occupancy employers around the Central Oregon office user scene.  Some of these users were lucky enough to have their initial lease terms coming due for negotiation just as everything seemed to be falling apart with COVID front and center.  As a result, these users were able to pounce on some fixed rents for 1-2 years to wait out the aftershock of the virus.  But that doesn’t help them to align with their long-term strategies and to deliver on strategic plans which usually run 5+ years out.  So, many are asking, now what?

There’s a great article in the National Association of Realtors  Winter 2020-2021 Commercial Connections Magazine which references how a “Survey of tech tenants shows planned drop in fully open layouts”.  Even open-office layouts are on their way out.  So, for those that are returning, they may find that their office layout looks strikingly different than the way they left it.  While early adopters of open office layouts hoped for more interactions and collaboration, they are finding the design resulted in the opposite outcome.  If more people could fit into that bull-pen or open office layout and we’re pulling back from that, does that mean the total SF per employee goes up too?

Once schools are back with full time instruction, will office go-ers really want to stay home-bound?  Many office users are embracing the work-from-home option to help curb overhead expenses, but do all departments really benefit from this approach? What about younger professionals seeking to climb their industry political ladder?  What about sales teams with heavy growth objectives?  Can newbies truly engage in mixers remotely and walk away with the same connection as they would in person?  Does it make sense for someone who was working in NYC to live in rural Montana and still expect to be a rising star in their company, absent those elevator pitches, luncheons, late nights to meet pressing deadlines, and celebrations at company mixers?  And, don’t most of us just miss seeing other people?