CEO Insider

A Whole New World? Dealing With Office Space Decisions in the Current Landscape.

Andrew Flint

Since the pandemic, there has been a massive shift in the way we work. Now that the biggest threat seems to have passed, leaders are trying to decide what option is best for their workforces: working in an office, remotely, or a mix of both? It’s a tough decision but having accurate real estate data makes it easier to land on the best choice for your organization.

There’s been a tectonic shift in work culture in the last few years. Everything switched from in person to remote. Now, leaders are faced with deciding how to best handle whether they should bring employees back to the office. The needs of companies are diverse, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for the decision to return to the office. However, there are strategies to employ that will help companies make the best choice.

Trying to determine the best option is difficult, but having accurate real estate data allows business leaders to make informed decisions about where to open locations and how much they can afford. It will also allow them to focus on building effective strategies that work best for their companies and employees because they won’t have to focus so much time and energy on gathering all that information themselves.

The Current Outlook for Office Real Estate

Today, there is a big divide between whether working from home or working in an office is best. A JLL survey found that 72% of company decision makers believe offices are critical to business success. However, business leaders also acknowledge the mass adoption of remote or hybrid work models. The same survey found that 77% of business leaders believed offering those work models would be necessary for attracting and retaining talent.

One proactive way of approaching an office space is to view it as just another tool to promote employee engagement and morale. There are many considerations for reopening offices, but leaders should rely on data points to help inform their corporate real estate strategy.

Should Leaders Focus on Returning to Their Previous Office Setups?

Leaders need to know their real estate options. Which leases have expiration dates coming up soon? Which spaces have termination clauses? Which spaces have rights to renew or expand?

These contractual agreements enable leaders to understand which levers they can pull to adjust their corporate real estate strategies — ultimately meeting employees where they want to be met. To quickly gain those insights, having a single source of truth for their real estate portfolios is a business necessity.

Executives can empower their real estate teams to be more strategic and nimbler by automating the day-to-day tasks of critical date management, expense reporting, and lease accounting compliance. Leveraging real estate tech makes lease data accessible, providing actionable insights for leadership teams as they navigate their real estate office strategies.

Most departments (such as sales, marketing, design, and human resources) all have tech stacks built specifically for their day-to-day operations. Real estate teams, on the other hand? Most still work out of PDFs, spreadsheets, and long email chains. These manual workflows leave the organization’s second-largest expense center (i.e., real estate) at risk.

A healthy mix of qualitative and quantitative data will help you build out your company’s office road map. Create your real estate and reopening strategies with the help of the following steps:

  1. Consider what’s possible.
    The best consultants, studies, and real estate predictive analytics won’t be helpful without the right data. Businesses should focus on utilizing lease management software to help guide their real estate decisions if they are not already. Many in the real estate industry still rely on emails, printed leases, and their employees’ memories.

    By having a single source of truth through comprehensive lease management software, office leaders can more effectively parse through lease options, rights to renew, termination options, and the expense per lease. Having the framework to know what is possible — from a purely logistical standpoint — makes it much easier to make the best business decisions. It also provides a starting point to discuss what options are available to employees regarding going into an office or working remotely.

    In the face of a massive shift in the employment landscape, it is easy to get lost in overarching discussions without a disciplined understanding of what can be achieved and when. A central, objective reference point will home swirling conversations into focused discussions based on actual data.

  2. Ask employees directly what they want.
    Once business leaders have a framework of what’s possible, they should ask employees what they find meaningful. This is best conducted through anonymous surveys so that employees feel comfortable sharing their needs and preferences. Ask questions about their preferred working styles. How frequently do they need to collaborate with others in person? What energizes them, drains them, or helps them focus? Asking a wide range of questions might help uncover valuable insights about what leaders can offer — and they can cross-reference the answers against their other data.

    Business leaders should dig into their real estate portfolio data to consider what their existing structure offers or doesn’t offer. For instance, the JLL survey mentioned above found that 77% of business leaders believe creating social value by investing in quality real estate is a priority. Being able to point to green building credentials or inclusive building design as a particular factor in a decision will likely resonate well with employees.

    Combining qualitative information from employees with quantitative data will yield the best results. Real estate analytics can offer the data underpinnings, but it is then up to business leaders to process that data, consider it in the real-world context, and offer a solution that meets everyone’s needs.

  3. Consider data from a reframed perspective.
    Reframing the company’s perspective might be necessary to decide whether to work from home or in an office. The office is evolving, and leadership teams must be open-minded to the fact that people are different and thrive in different working environments. So, the challenge is catering to a range of unique needs.

    Only recently have we started asking ourselves what the point of the office is. Why did we work in cubicles? Was a two-hour commute worth it? Within our own client base at Occupier, we’ve seen 38% of companies increase their location counts. That data tells us organizations are looking for ways to meet employees where they want to be met, whether that’s a third workspace, a neighborhood co-working space, or a satellite office to meet when necessary.

The pandemic was like an earthquake in many ways for businesses and office culture. However, by employing sound real estate strategies and taking bold actions, employers can continue to bridge the divides that COVID-19 left and make the right office decisions.


Written by Andrew Flint.
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Andrew Flint
Andrew Flint is a co-founder at Occupier, a transaction and portfolio management software helping commercial tenants and brokers manage their real estate footprint. Occupier’s software helps teams make smarter, more informed lease decisions by centralizing the way they work. In turn, teams ensure alignment between their real estate decisions and business successes.


Andrew Flint is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow him on LinkedIn.