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In Focus: Taking Advantage of the Remote Working Trend

With the majority of employees worldwide spending at least a portion of their time working remotely, facility mangers need to alter their workspaces.

Q1 2019
The shape of office space has changed dramatically over the years — from the large, individual offices of the 1950s and 60s to the rows of cubicles in the 80s. Now, we’re seeing those cubicles shift into communal work areas with less square footage overall and fewer parking spaces, reflecting the 21st century’s newest office trend: remote working. Remarkably, today a majority — 52 percent — of employees worldwide work away from the office at least once a week. In 2018, 85 percent of American companies offered this option to employees, and as more millennials enter the workforce, America’s workforce is taking full advantage of the opportunity.

According to an annual survey from FlexJobs, people seek flexible positions for work-life balance, saving time and eliminating commuting stress. The survey also reports that remote workers are more productive due to fewer distractions, interruptions from colleagues, and run-ins with office politics, to name a few factors. Because of these values of working remotely, companies are even beginning to offer this benefit in place of salary raises, and employees are happily accepting.

It’s clear that the remote working trend is unavoidable, and at first, it may seem bad for the commercial real estate industry, but that’s not necessarily true. The “ideal” workspace is never set in stone, so continually updating your spaces to stay ahead of the trend will avoid the negative consequences of inadaptability and become an opportunity for profit and growth. Here are some tips for altering your workspaces:

Provide smaller individual workspaces.
For some time now, companies have been providing less square footage per worker. From 2010 to 2017, the average worker’s space was decreased nearly a third, from 225 square feet to 151 square feet.

Remarkably, today a majority — 52 percent — of employees worldwide work away from the office at least once a week. Employees still typically have their own desks, but businesses are choosing to waive the concept of individual offices. Even upper-level executives are straying from large corner offices and choosing to surround themselves with coworkers to encourage collaboration. In such an office, employees work in communal areas and have only a few private spaces for meetings and other important matters that require privacy.

The value for businesses is simple: Companies don’t want to provide their employees space that isn’t being used. When fewer people show up to the office every day, there is less of a need for an abundance of space, and workers don’t mind because they have the option to work elsewhere.

Renovate your parking lot.
With fewer people working in your building, there will obviously be fewer cars in the parking lot. Additionally, public transportation and the significant rise in ridesharing usage will alter America’s traffic and parking patterns in the coming years.

Cities have long enforced zoning codes to mandate an adequate number of parking spaces, but in 2017, Buffalo, N.Y., was the first city to completely abolish city-wide minimum parking requirements for commercial and residential projects. Other cities across the country — from Seattle to Miami — are reducing their parking requirements or removing them altogether in certain areas.

The elimination of parking requirements can be a benefit to facility managers. Since fewer spaces are needed, they have the option of expanding a building into the parking lot to offer more rentable space or even renting a portion of the parking lot to a neighboring business.

Consider short-term rentals.
As the remote working phenomenon continues to grow, so does another: short-term rentals. And I don’t mean six-month office rentals; I’m referring to the rentals that last six weeks, or maybe even a few days. These are spaces for startup businesses, remote workers, and office-less companies that need to hold an afternoon meeting.

The value for businesses is simple: Companies don’t want to provide their employees space that isn’t being used. Flexible office space — aka, coworking space — has grown an astounding amount in the last decade. With only 14 nationwide locations in 2007, there are now more than 4,500 rentable coworking spaces that are used to host business meetings, one-on-one consultations, or individual workers who wanted to escape the monotony of their homes. As much as Americans love the flexibility of working remotely, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are itching to work from home. Coworking spaces offer these employees the unique combination of the independence of remote working and the quiet, collaborative atmosphere of an office.

If your building has a space you aren’t sure how to use, consider converting it to a short-term rental coworking space. All it takes is an open floor plan with plenty of seating and a few useful meeting areas, a strong WiFi connection, and even stronger coffee.

The remote working trend is here to stay, but that’s nothing to worry about. By using these tips and staying up to date on what companies want from their space, you can keep your facility relevant.

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