Could This Be the End for Offices?

*This post is sponsored by one of REIN’s Trusted Partners, InvestPlus REIT. To become a contributing editor or to learn about our sponsorship opportunities, please contact us at david@reincanada.com.

Due to isolation and physical distancing, an influx of employees around the world have become accustomed to working at home. With fewer employees in offices, the question everyone is asking is: Is this the end of physical office spaces?

It seems like a reasonable conclusion at the onset, but although I always jump in with an opinion or prediction based on the information at hand, these days it’s hard to predict what will happen next.

Some companies across the country have reported a net increase in productivity over the last few months of remote working along with many employees preferring to work from home. After all, who wouldn’t want to avoid sitting in traffic while commuting to work? Working from home also increases focus and efficiency.

There are no doubts about it, enabling employees to work from home has a wide range of advantages for business owners. For example, thanks to the rise in virtual offices, it has never been easier for employers to allow their teams to work remotely.

In case you were not already aware, put simply, a virtual office is a service that enables employees and business owners to work remotely by providing a range of business functions that are accessible through the internet. Virtual offices also enable organizations to create and maintain a presence in a desirable location without the need to pay rent for an actual space.

In addition, some virtual offices even offer mail forwarding services that allow employers to receive letters and parcels at a specified address. Any post can then be accessed online or forwarded globally. If you would like to learn more about the benefits of the mail forwarding services offered by virtual offices, you can visit https://yourvirtualofficelondon.co.uk/.

However, it is undeniable that despite all the advantages of working from home, there are some challenges to running a business from a completely remote environment.

When I entered the work force in the mid ‘90s, Flex-Office and working from home was becoming more common, with the word on the street being that office spaces would soon be a thing of the past. The internet was gaining popularity and connectivity, although cumbersome, was achievable. Along with the use of faxes, working from home was possible and even efficient. Since then, and pre-Covid, you would not have considered that office usage could be over. Skyscrapers still dominate the skyline and offices continue to be built.

Now that COVID-19 is upon us, we’re faced with the same question once again: Is it over for office spaces? Whilst some people are still wondering how COVID-19 affects office spaces in the long run, the immediate effects are more than visible. With millions of people now having to work from home, companies have since learned that the benefits of working from home are outweighed by other key factors, namely:

  1. Retention-Keeping good employees proved to be difficult.
  2. Leadership-Finding people within the ranks to promote within their company was also difficult.
  3. Training and maintaining a company culture proved to be more difficult, especially with new employees.

All of the above have one thing in common: a lack of in-person interactions and experiences.

In a clip from the Fast Company Impact Council, Author and Motivational Speaker Simon Sinek poses that many leaders underestimate the effort that goes into running virtual workspaces. Sinek says that although productivity is seeing an increase with employees working from home, humans are social animals that need to be in the company of others in order to maximize creativity and teamwork potential.

“It’s very hard to brainstorm or have any creativity like this [over video call], we need to be in the company of others,” says Sinek in the video clip. “We need to be able to interrupt each other, write things on walls, and have that wonderful, magical energy and then go for lunch together to build that relationship.”

There is an element that exists in the office that you simply cannot get from home. The energy when coworkers are working together to achieve a common goal is hard to achieve remotely. That energy inspires you; it moves you. It is also the ability to take someone aside and have a brainstorming session over a steamy cappuccino that you cannot experience from a video conference. On a personal note, when videoconferencing our board meetings, I can tell that we’re missing the intricacies and interactions that exist when other members and myself are in the same room. It’s hard to have a simple one-on-one conversation to ask how their family is doing or about their relative’s surgery while in a group video conference.

Being in sales and interacting with people on a daily basis, I cannot imagine building the same level of relationship with someone over videoconferencing that you would face-to-face with them. Just the other day, we had an in-person meeting with a consulting company that works on behalf of cell-phone carriers and building owners like us to install cell towers. We learned more about how we can further that relationship simply from being in the same room versus if we had been on the phone or a video call. We enjoyed each other’s company and values and can see ourselves doing business together. That is the value of interacting in person.

What Will Change?

Though I do not foresee the end of traditional office environments, I believe that with the option for employees to work from home, companies are going to utilize offices differently.

I do not see offices continuing in the same manner as they did pre-Covid but rather the emergence of a new custom-office space model. Recently, we have seen large companies like Facebook and Microsoft investing in newly-designed office spaces that allow workers to come and go as they choose. This opens up the possibility and flexibility for employees to come to work and utilize common work areas while still working from home one or two days a week.

One of our properties, Britannia Business Centre (BBC), functions as one of these designated spaces, providing open workspaces for any sized company. It is designed to allow companies to meet with their employees when needed and utilize the space more efficiently. Some solutions we have are open-concept, ‘bull-pen’ style offices, coworking spaces, shared offices, incubator spaces, and virtual offices. We even have a ‘Zen Space’ for those needing to get some fresh air to contemplate new ideas. This allows for employers to manage their cost and have a place to interact with their staff without the long-term leases and space commitments that exist with typical office spaces (although we also have this option as well).

This custom-office model began to take shape back in the early 2010s when companies began providing co-working spaces and office rental services to individuals and enterprises alike. By renting an office space or a conference room on an ‘as-needed’ basis, they generate more profitability, especially for companies that lack the overhead of a corporate office. The community atmosphere of this model also offers is the reason I do not think this is the end of offices. Proven by how much we’ve missed our friends and family during this pandemic, at the end of the day, human beings crave each other. The future of offices will provide a balance of social interactions necessary within a company and also manage costs for the employer.

To learn more about custom office workspaces and how they are changing the office environment, visit Britannia Business Centre at www.calgaryofficeplus.com.

To find out more about the future of office real estate, contact InvestPlus REIT, where we always have our finger on the pulse of the changing Canadian real estate landscape.

About InvestPlus Real Estate Investment Trust

InvestPlus Real Estate Investment Trust (IP REIT) is a private real estate investment fund based in Calgary, Alberta. InvestPlus REIT is a growth-oriented real estate investment trust focused on increasing unitholder value through the acquisition, ownership, and management of commercial and residential properties in primary and secondary markets in western Canada. Management has transacted over $100,000,000 in buildings comprising of 22 buildings in the provinces of BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan. The current portfolio is appraised at $49,000,000 and comprised of 10 buildings in 5 different cities in western Canada.

Read the top 5 reasons to invest in a REIT.

For additional information, you are welcome to reach out to InvestPlus REIT directly. However, for offering documents and additional information it is best to reach out to Klint Rodgers, the Assoc. VP of Business Development and Registered Dealing in BC, AB and ON with Axcess Capital Advisors Inc., our lead Partner and Dealership as it relates to capital raise across the country. Klint can be reached at Klint.Rodgers@AxcessCapital.com or you can book a Zoom meeting with him through the following link: Book Meeting Now!

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