VP of Office Leasing Brent Mangum and other industry leaders offer their thoughts on the future of office workspace via NAIOP

Steven Cornblatt
Principal
Trout Daniel & Associates

“We’ve been seeing increased supply and diminished demand for office space overall during the past decade or more and, in the aftermath of COVID-19, we expect to see continued diminishing demand. One exception may be medical and clinical office space because people still desire the personal experience of being in the same room with their healthcare providers. In general, with COVID-19 triggering an immediate need for employers to transition employees from the traditional office location to the home office, employers are now feeling a welcome level of comfort with large numbers of people having to work remotely. While we expect many companies will return and resume normal office operations, there are so many more that will not return at all, and others that will seek to restructure existing leases as well as corporate leasing programs. While we are going to be in a state of limbo for some time, waiting to see how the office space sector responds, we don’t believe we will see demand for office space return to pre-coronavirus levels, thus the office of the future is likely to be smaller than in the past.”

Gail Chrzan
Senior Vice President
Blue and Obrecht Realty, LLC

“Companies are universally taking a safety-first approach to new office configurations and, above all, this will dictate their future plans. My opinion is that the commercial office market will realize a net zero impact when everything settles down and a new normal emerges. Benching workstations, widely popular as a way to improve collaboration and densification, will take a back seat moving forward. Over the next 12-18 months, companies will start stretching out their spaces to allow for more six-foot social distancing but this might be offset by employees working remotely and staggered work schedules. Employers and employees are also becoming increasingly comfortable with teleconferencing so, as a recent Vanity Fair article said, a pandemic won’t kill the open office, but Slack could.”

David Fritz
Principal
NAI KLNB

“My overall perception is that it is too early to tell if offices will be larger or smaller, because we have to first wait for society to reopen for business before we can assess the damage done over the past several months. Pre-coronavirus, we started to see office footprints being reduced and refined in response to the new way businesses and employees were working. It will depend greatly on the particular industry with a utilitarian approach desired by companies that require increased density. We foresee additional private offices with certain functions transferred to an open office layout but buffered by social distancing requirements and company culture. Cube farms may disappear with teleworking and call centers may revert to shift work. In the healthcare sector, the size of waiting rooms could be reduced to fit less than 10 people or with ample separation. The telemedicine concept engaged quickly but we believe patients will still want an office visit and doctors may need to rethink size and capacity.”

Brent Mangum
Vice President of Office Leasing
David S. Brown Enterprises

“We’re still navigating our way through this, so it is too early to know what the long-term ramifications will be. The trend in recent years toward high-density floor plans and shared workspaces may start to reverse as companies recognize shoehorning 8 to 10 people per 1,000 square feet of office space in the name of collaboration is probably the antithesis of ‘healthy distancing.’ Some companies are finding it easier to work from home than they had once thought. Others rely on human interaction and collaboration and will need certain reconfiguration and, in some cases, expansion to create the recommended distances for people to return to work. For the immediate future, the overall size of office footprints will likely stay about the same until we have more data and information to guide their decision-making.”