3 ingredients for adapting to the office property bubble

Kabandy - construction bubbl

An article in L’Echo reports on the office real estate market in March 2021. According to Philippe Coulée, this segment of the market seems to have passed through the storm of covid 19…But that only certain experts dare to assert that this apparent calm is only a temporary façade. 

In fact, with the confinements of 2020 and 2021, office space leases, traditionally medium and long term, are often found to be honoured through subletting. The only solution for tenants to pay the rent due for premises they were forced to leave: “The empty office bubble is growing sharply in Brussels”. 

This market situation is therefore worrying for the years to come since adaptation will be inevitable. Whether it is imposed on owners at the end of a pandemic or at the end of their lease… Office space leasing has every interest in reinventing itself in the time window that remains before the bubble bursts. 

Let’s discuss the ingredients of this adaptation, accelerated by the massive experience of teleworking. 

Widespread during the pandemic, this practice of “home working” requires taking into account different aspects of the workers’ reality.

 European commission - Kabandy

First of all, 100% telecommuting is unrealistic, at least not for a majority of workers. Despite some examples of sectors that were already familiar with this practice before the appearance of the virus (online industry, digital start-ups, etc.), in many cases: office work cannot be done entirely remotely. A series of actions for some and meetings for others remain essential to be carried out “face to face”. Not to mention the desperate need for social contact. 

At the end of the pandemic, it is estimated that employees will work an average of 1 to 2 days from home. This means that offices will be occupied again, but in a different way. 

Let’s take a look at the “new needs” of the occupants which will have to be taken into account by the owners of office spaces. 3 main trends stand out:

  • Flexibility: new jargon makes us familiar with concepts like “Clean desk Policy” or “NWOW (New Way Of Working)” which refer to so-called “dynamic” workstations. An office is no longer fixed or assigned to a single person. A space can be reserved in advance (online for example) and must be able to accommodate different workers throughout the same day. 
  • Mixed-use districts: the notion of mixed-use has been evolving since the 1970s. Districts exclusively dedicated to offices, dotted with shops and deserted after 5 pm, no longer correspond to the reality of 2020-21. In practice, a shift is taking place towards the inclusion of the workplace in housing. In whole or in part. The “m2 of residential offices” now count in the equation. It is therefore important that the work environment is connected with other daily needs such as leisure or shopping.
  • Nomad: Before the crisis, the worker moved to reach their work environment. Post-covid , it is the work environment that follows the worker. This doesn’t necessarily mean to be a recluse at home, but to be able to move with flexibility, productivity and safety. 

The real estate company wishing to respond to these new challenges will have to put in place the appropriate actions to meet a triple challenge: (i) control the information on its properties in the portfolio, (ii) optimise the areas occupied and diversify the use of premises , (iii) offer its users services responding to new work habits that will enable a positive overall experience. 

Among the many concrete avenues, let us quote: organise and use an efficient booking system for workstations and meeting rooms (allowing changes in the assignment of premises according to needs), make it possible to conclude lease contracts in a few clicks , create virtual tours, set up the connectivity of the installations (VC, etc.), ensure the portability of the work environment, etc.

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