"Through this pandemic and everything that has happened, the only word I can use to begin to describe everything is disruption." - Howard Altshuler
The physical office is ready for a post-COVID comeback. While many company CEOs have pronounced the current state of working from home the new normal, there’s plenty of reason to believe there will be a return to the office after the COVID-19 pandemic is defeated.
“I think the biggest thing is going to be the fact that we don’t have as much collaboration when we’re working from home as when we’re working from the office,” said Howard Altshuler, Partner-in-Charge, Real Estate Services at Weaver. “It’s social from the point of being able to talk to people online, but it’s not social because I can’t just walk around the office, see someone and stop in and have a five-minute conversation. We’re losing all that spontaneity … that collaboration and those ideas that get generated.”
That said, with work-from-home likely to be much more prevalent going forward, the disruption coronavirus has caused will bring about innovation in architecture design, workplace space planning and real estate developing to flex for cost management, generation preferences, and health and safety.
“People are either frustrated or opportunistic or have a lot of time to think. What is going through their mind is ‘I can do X better.’ When this is all said and done and things get back to normal or whatever normal is, people who feel like ‘I can do X better.’ are going to try to do X better. They are going to start their own companies to do what they think they can do. A lot of those companies are going to be successful and they are going to need office space,” comments Altshuler.
For multi-family and single living design Altshuler states, “Architects are really good at coming up with innovative ideas, and I think you’ll see things such as ways of turning a kitchen counter into a desk, maybe ways of moving the layout of a room around to get a living room more adaptable to working from home than they currently are, perhaps some way to make bedrooms larger and potentially partitioning them to turn it into an office,” Altshuler said. “And then let’s also not forget, especially when we get to where we can be closer together, common areas within apartments. If you have an apartment building with 300 units, putting in a WeWork-type shared desk area is probably not a big stretch to add to the clubhouse or common area.”
“For a home builder or a condo developer I see some upside,” said Rob Nowak, Partner Tax Services. “There are some premium options which I think you are going to start to see be built into floor plans. Convertible spaces where a kitchen is converting into an office or a bedroom is converting more readily into a study, enhancements in technology, enhancements in connectivity. You’re going to see updates around additional office space and office use.”