Podcast: The Myths Surrounding Return to Office

Location Cubed

Key Points:

  • Working at the office provides relationship-building opportunities that don’t exist remotely
  • People returning to the office remember how much they enjoy the experience
  • Current market conditions, such as gas prices, might play into the decision to work remotely


What does the future of office value look like in a post-pandemic world where remote work will likely continue in a large capacity, certainly more than before the pandemic? Howard Altshuler, Partner-in-Charge, Real Estate and Construction Services at Weaver, recently read an article that put the number at five hundred billion or more of future office space value erosion. He spoke with Rob Nowak, Tax Partner of Real Estate for Weaver, to dispel the myths and try to get to the bottom of what return to office looks like today and down the road.

Altshuler falls on the side of believing widespread stay-at-home work will not continue to expand as the world enters its post-COVID phase. “I’m also a big believer in business creation and the ultimate need for space,” Altshuler added. “I also understand the need for more space per person in any given spot. Therefore, as they say, my death has been greatly exaggerated.” Altshuler believes the forecasting of such office value erosion is too extreme.

Playing devil’s advocate, Nowak wondered how the recent rise in gas prices, which play a considerable role in commuting costs, would affect return-to-office decision-making, at least in the short term. Could it be something employees might insist on, requiring employers to offer flexible in-office / work-from-home schedules?

Altshuler held firm that workers who typically need to come into the office weren’t ones whose positions could work with a flex schedule of the sort Nowak mentioned. “I think the people working from home (currently) are probably in a spot where the higher gas prices hurt, but not that big of an issue on their decision making,” Altshuler said.

Some motivating factors bringing folks back into the office and away from their work-at-home gigs are the contacts and social interactions they’ve missed over the past couple of years. “There’s always going to be people who are super comfortable working at home, and that’s fine,” Altshuler said. “When you’re younger, and you’re starting, think about how difficult it would have been to start out and work remotely. I’m so proud of the people who started working at our firm at the beginning of the pandemic and had to deal with starting the job remotely.” It’s quite a challenge to learn a new industry when one does not have the benefit of working alongside a mentor. And building those personal relationships in the office again will make a difference for those beginning their professional careers.

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