As companies begin to reopen their office doors following the COVID-19 lockdown, a new survey reveals that around one third of employees are hesitant to return to the office, and would rather continue to work from home on a permanent basis.
The survey by CreditCards.com in late May found that workers prefer working from home even though doing so actually costs them more. Remote workers say their regular expenses have increased by an average of $108 a month, reflecting an increase in grocery and utility bills, even though it means they can save on things such as child care and transportation. Indeed, millennials found working from home to be even more expensive, with their expenses rising by $208.
“Surprisingly, average expenses have gone up for people working from home, but it’s a trade-off most are happy with,” Ted Rossman, an industry analyst with CreditCards.com, told Fox Business. “Most workers seem content to skip the commute and potentially work in their pajamas, even if it means spending more on food and utilities.”
It’s estimated that around one third of employed adults in the U.S. have been working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. The survey found that a majority of those people would be in favor of a hybrid office/home setup, switching between home and the office. Indeed, 82% of employees said they’d like to work from home two days per week, compared to just 21% who said they’d like to work from home four or more days per week, reflecting the fact that many feel a bit of personal contact is essential.
The survey findings are important because companies are eager to know what trends in the office space sector will surface post-pandemic. Robert Cleary, a senior vice president at Colliers International who specializes in the office sector, told the National Real Estate Investor that he thinks suburban office markets will soon see a pickup in activity, with satellite offices growing in demand as they provide an alternative to long daily commutes to the central office.
Jonathan Strvutz of SDB-BIOC Commercial agreed, saying he believes a lot of workers will begin switching regularly between working from home and the office, at least for a while. He said that only around 30% of office space will be occupied on average at most companies, and that this will remain so until a vaccine for the coronavirus is found. As such, he expects more sublet space to become available on the market. However, some office tenants are taking advantage of the pandemic to negotiate better deals on office space in prime urban spots.
“Most occupiers are evaluating their current and future space needs to support both an increasingly remote workforce and less office density for health and safety reasons,” Dennis Hearst, senior vice president in the advisory and transactions services group with CBRE, told the National Real Estate Investor.
Hearst added he was optimistic that the “unmatched value of a dedicated space for commercial innovation and professional collaboration will endure, even if some long-term design changes occur.”