Remote working will not put an end to office buildings. Flexible workspaces, telecommuting and third places: hybridisation was already present in some buildings and it will be common to places of work. Office buildings boost creativity, interaction, sense of community, innovation, and, of course, business culture. Corporate offices remains the "mother ship" of any business.
"The notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past." This short sentence, spoken recently by the CEO of Barclays bank sums up well the impact of covid-19 on commercial buildings. Although it has sent shockwaves through the way businesses approach places of work, this unprecedented pandemic does not represent the death sentence for office buildings: rather, it is transforming them and it is speeding up the changes that have already been happening for several years.
Furthermore, if you believe the YouGov/Otka study, even in a flexible future European employees will not be ready to completely renounce the office and will remain attached to their place of work: more than half of people surveyed (57%) said that they miss face-to-face conversations with their colleagues. For a large majority of the workforce, being in an office means being part of a community.
"Physical contact is a part of the system that we use to build our relationships, our friendships and our family bonds," explains Robin Dunbar, Emeritus Professor of Evolutionary Psychology at the University of Oxford. So it seems that in this post-traumatic period, the office reasserts itself more than ever as the essential setting for employees' social interaction and sense of belonging. Of course, it is changing, with workspaces becoming multi-functional (homes, coworking spaces and businesses) or combining with spaces converted for specific purposes – but it remains an essential rallying point for customers, business partners, service providers and employees who enjoy coming in for team meetings, interaction with colleagues and creativity.
Office real estate, as a collaboration hub, business flagship, ultimate management tool and strategic lever for organisations, still has, therefore, good days ahead.