COVID-19 Vaccines A Game-Changer For Office Market
USA – While COVID-19 vaccination is merely a step toward a safe return to the workplace, it’s a game-changer because employers can begin concretely carrying out their plans to return to the office, reported the Chicago Tribune on Monday (4 January).
“Plans can start moving from theoretical to practical,” said Bridget Gainer, Vice President of global affairs at Aon, which is spearheading a coalition of major employers in Chicago and other cities across the globe to plan for the future of office space.
“I think the vaccine is a game-changer because it gives light at the end of the tunnel, and workers can talk about returning to the office as if it’s a real thing,” she noted.
Although COVID-19 vaccinations are expected to improve market sentiment, employers are struggling to implement changes in a post-pandemic world as there are no precedents to lead the way.
Businesses will spend the next few months deciding which work arrangement will persist or be discontinued, including those triggered by the health crisis. Those that will be affected include office configurations, policies on working from home, travel budgets, recruitment, and staff retention.
Among the challenges that will be faced by workers and employers this year, at least temporarily, are COVID-era restrictions, like temperature checks and mandatory use of masks. Offices are also implementing touch-free entrances, and employers may get rid of high-density areas, such as gyms, coffee bars, and bench seats.
Experts also shared that most staff are unlikely to work from home 5 times per week, as many are expected to divide their work time at the office and at home. Some companies are also expected to reduce their total office footprint, which could possibly lead to a glut of office space in Chicago and other cities.
Still, some businesses could establish smaller satellite offices in the suburbs to go with bigger downtown office premises, noted the experts.
Moreover, many companies are unlikely to entirely ditch the traditional office setting, which they think is still importing for mentoring and assessing staff for promotions, as well as for fostering teamwork.
The fear of missing out (FOMO) will eventually prompt staff to return to the traditional office setting if their career advancement prospects suffer due to fewer in-person interactions, especially with their superiors.
That is one of the findings of a study jointly conducted by George Washington University’s Center for Real Estate & Urban Analysis and Cushman & Wakefield (C&W). Notably, the researchers interviewed office landlords, tenants, and other industry experts across the United States.