Blueprint 2021 Predictions: The Office is Not Dead
Note: This post was part of a collection of predictions made by proptech investors and entrepreneurs compiled by Blueprint in late 2020.
For any job, some tasks (e.g., financial modeling) require relatively little interaction with colleagues; others (e.g., launching new products) require a lot of communication across many functions.
For these latter tasks, face-to-face is still the “highest bandwidth” communication form. Anyone on a multi-person Zoom conference knows how hard it is to focus and how you lose nuance and non-verbal cues, especially as participants zone out, turn off cameras, et cetera. One-on-one zoom calls are better but try hiring someone for a senior position or getting comfortable with a startup investment. It’s doable, but harder and slower.
While in-person work isn’t going away, employers now have the comfort and capability (e.g. collaboration software, data security, training) to be more flexible — so incrementally more work will be remote.
But most people find extended remote work unsatisfying. Millions of years of evolution have
honed humanity’s collaboration skills. We evolved to work in groups. Fortunately, working remotely isn’t synonymous with working from home. Employers may set up satellite offices for employees to work remotely without the sense of isolation.
The most likely scenario I see playing out is:
- Employers give employees latitude about when they return to the office.
- Informal understandings gradually morph into formal HR guidelines.
- Corporate Real Estate departments set up satellite locations in coworking spaces and build processes to support this network.
- Over months or years, excess capacity becomes apparent and hot desking is rolled out. Excess space is sublet or reconfigured.
- As leases approach renewal, central office space needs will likely be moderately smaller.
- Remote work is roughly evenly distributed across the employee pool so the geographic center of gravity doesn’t shift much.
- Central offices shrink somewhat but don’t shift much.
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