Jim Kramer on CNBC Squawk Box recently rhetorically asked: will this mandated “work from home” be the Netfix for office buildings as Netflix was for movie theatres? I don’t think the analogy fits. Pre-COVID 19, tenants were laser-focused on collaborative spaces, amenity rich buildings all to foster company culture. I don’t see how technology can replace the human experience. Instead, I think we’ll see more of an evolution (versus revolution) of the workspace, including work from home as part of the strategy.
As Bisnow recently reported, CoreNet Global’s April 28, 2020 survey of corporate real estate professionals found that 69% of companies are planning to reduce their office foot print after the recent forced work from home experiment. By contrast, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt on a recent “Face the Nation” interview predicts that office space will be in greater demand due to social distancing and more smaller offices in a “hub and spoke” format. I question, will the appeal of remote work still be attractive to employees after this pandemic passes and they have a choice? While the jury is out on the long-term implication of remote work, in this post, I address the Pro’s and Con’s and what policies companies should consider implementing to have an effective work-from-home (“WFH”) strategy.
Last year a Harvard Business School associate professor (Ethan Bernstein) led the first empirical study measuring both face-to-face and electronic interaction before and after two Fortune 500 companies moved to an open barrier-free workspace. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the study found that, with the open workspace, personal interactions dropped approximately 70% while electronic interactions increased between 22% and 50%. After this study was released (which some industry professionals have challenged), countless articles have been written that the open office plan is another misguided corporate management fad and the real reason for its adoption is to reduce costs by densely packing workers into a smaller space. While there’s certainly a cost benefit to a more open plan with a smaller footprint, particularly as rents in many markets are hitting historic heights, in this post I briefly discuss how a thoughtfully-crafted open office plan can increase personal interaction and productivity while contributing to the retention and recruitment of talent.
In the late 1960’s, Herman Miller, an American manufacturer of office furniture and equipment, spawned the idea of office cubicles. The cubicle’s popularity was sustained until about 10 years ago, when companies began to notice that the way in which people worked was changing; people were collaborating in small teams as well as relying on portable electronic devices that do not require that they be “tethered” to a fixed workspace.