What The New 3-2-2 Work Week Will Mean For Commercial Real Estate

Kenny Kane is the Chief Operating Officer at Firmspace.

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The past 10 months have transformed what “professional life” means for many of us. While many companies are actively exploring what a hybrid work environment might look like for their organizations, two things have become clear:

1. Professionals are more than capable of producing quality work in a suitable remote environment.

2. Now that the workforce has had a taste of greater flexibility, for many organizations, it would be foolish to go backward and require that all staff return to the office five days a week after the pandemic ends.

This is where the 3-2-2 model is gaining popularity. The idea is that professionals should spend three days in the office, two days working from home and two days at rest each week.

So, what exactly does this new model mean for those of us in the commercial real estate game?

The Future: Less Space With More Flexibility Built In

First, it’s important not to ignore that commercial real estate suffered a huge blow in the past 10 months, and recent analysis by CBRE suggests that remote working could cut the overall need for office space by 15% post-pandemic.

The good news: Most companies will be returning to the office on the other side of this crisis. Those offering high-quality office spaces with the features employers (and employees) are looking for will be well-positioned to fill their spaces, and one of the key features people are looking for is flexible space.

CBRE’s recent trend report found that “occupiers are increasingly demanding flexible space options, shared meeting space, indoor air quality, connected building apps and touchless technology when considering new leases.”

The takeaway? While commercial tenants may reduce the amount of space they lease in the future, the quality of that space will become more important.

Downtown Offices Aren’t Going Away, But They Are Getting an Upgrade

By the first quarter of 2020, up to 70% of office spaces were primarily or partially open plan. Here in the first quarter of 2021, it’s hard to imagine corralling employees in a wide-open work environment ever again.

When 3-2-2 professionals show up at their upgraded offices post-pandemic, they’ll expect a superior in-office experience that gives them privacy and the ability to facilitate collaboration or solo concentration in distinct spaces. They’ll also expect better communication with the facilities management team as health concerns in shared spaces are here to stay.

A recent Deloitte survey found that commercial real estate holders plan to reduce costs by 20% on average, but this doesn’t mean they’re downgrading their facilities. Instead, these respondents are “optimizing operational costs and using technology to reposition space and for facilities management [to] improve operational resilience.”

While spaces are empty, now is the time for commercial real estate management companies to move away from old trends and prepare their vacancies for a safer future.

Professionals Need A Dedicated Space To Work

It’s been clear since the early days of the pandemic when parents and students were first asked to get their work done at the same kitchen table that a strong majority of professionals want to return to their offices on the other side of this pandemic.

A recent survey from JLL found that 52% of professionals did not feel productive at home and 58% of respondents miss the office greatly, but this is only an average number. The one real estate professionals should watch is the percent of high performers who miss their time in the office: a whopping 80%.

The flexibility of the 3-2-2 model will allow those who require time in a professional office to thrive to have that time and those who prefer to work from home to log days in the quiet of their home office space. But this model provides employers and employees with the flexibility necessary to keep office occupation numbers within a safe range and for employees to live their lives.

The 3-2-2 Week Places An Emphasis On Time Spent In The Office

To get to a place where professionals truly benefit from a flexible work model like the 3-2-2, they’ll need to return to spaces that facilitate deep work outside their makeshift home offices, and this is great news for commercial real estate.

The emergence of this new framework for the workweek confirms that people don’t just want to go back to the office — for many, they need to. And commercial real estate agents will see this reflected in their quarterly reports as soon as the pandemic turns around.

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Kenny Kane is the Chief Operating Officer at Firmspace. Read Kenny Kane’s full executive profile here.

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