Future of work: the office space that companies want but do not need

2020 is a time come to test our resilience and adaptability as people and businesses. Stress-testing our old ways has revealed new ways of doing things, some better than before. One of these new ways is the now so popular work from home. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve been trying to anticipate the future of work in order to adapt to our business campus. I spent too much time with world experts, studied the impact of past pandemics on the way people work, inquired about the adaptations of workplaces in countries such as China, and maintained constant communication with business leaders in my network. My permanent research took me nowhere and everywhere since, you guessed it, it’s all opinions. 

Before I begin sharing my bet on the future of work, allow me to share 2 things about the CBC approach to office spaces:

 1. Our initial value proposition was the idea of a mini-town where you could find most of the services you need on site alongside premium office spaces. This concept saves time that can be better spent by employees. The remix from a regular mixed use development we created was that, apart from the education services ( school & kindergarden ) , we created and developed all the other services in a boutique way that flexibly caters our tenant needs.(CBC Bistro, CBC Fitness, CBC Park, CBC Football Arena, CBC Rooftop, CBC Cowork (coming soon ), CBC Living – Residential. The 100 steps to anything or walkable city is a concept we coined before it became mainstream in romanian real estate. However, operating lifestyle services within a real estate development does not make sense for large developers and their business objectives, despite bringing benefits to tenants. But we are not large developers and our unique mission is our second differentiator:

 2. Building a community within our mini town aka real estate as a service. This is something CBC embodies in the Romanian real estate market. HOW? We invest our entire marketing efforts into community building. We hardly do any B2B marketing since our focus has been delivering the best experiences to the employees of our tenants – a B2B2C model. Some examples: CBC rooftop parties, CBC cooking events, CBC hiking club, CBC charity, CBC Football Cup, CBC Academy, CBC Mindfulness and the show really goes on.

None of these would have really mattered had they not been embraced and supported by our tenants. But they have, and together we built an active closed community of 3000 people -the CBC experiment has proved to be a huge success in terms of employee satisfaction – a weapon in their employer branding , benefits and retention arsenal. 

Now, let me return to the future of work with some early conclusions from all these months of debates. I hope my perspective brings some sort of reinforcement to the decisions both IT & BPO companies and real estate developers face:

– WFH : at least as productive as work from the office 

– WFH : people save the time spent commuting 

– WFH : the desired way to go NOW, by both employers and employees. Some studies show that 50 % of employees would prefer WFH as the first way to go even after the pandemic

– WFH : employees have challenges in maintaining work/life balance since there is no spacial differentiation

– WFH: we miss social interaction

– WFH: leaders show first signs of struggle. Not a control thing, rather a context thing

– Experts anticipate that offices will become the social gathering space of companies, a place to welcome clients to your home, trainings, junior induction, innovation and fun. 

With this set of initial conclusions in mind, companies are now questioning their real estate foot print and their need for office space. 

Some have given up on their leases almost entirely like translation companies or certain call centers.

Others have doubled down on their real estate footprint, like Netflix.

And many more are playing the wait and see card, a smart and safe play. 

Here’s my bet for the future:

Office space remains a backbone for our work culture, just like school remains a backbone for our education. The why is simple: we can become more knowledgeable and productive on our own, but we can only grow/innovate/have fun while doing it – together. 

The best lesson this pandemic has taught companies is that they do not require an office.

Why am I, a real estate CEO, saying this? Because it pushes us real estaters to evolve or become redundant. It pushes us to become wanted, no longer needed. 

Work from home and the office space are not adversaries. They will become a team playing for the well being and satisfaction of employees.

Work from home and the office space are not adversaries. They will become a team playing for the well being and satisfaction of employees. The first brings confort while the latter brings culture and belongingness. And smart innovative companies will seek to offer both.

The vaccine will slowly bring our lives back and as people will return to the office, a real estater such as myself should spend time with the following question: 

“What are they returning to? “

And if you do not have an answer, than you should get back to work.

Here’s what I miss about office life: 

Sun bathing meetings in the CBC Park, preferably no masks needed

Sun bathing meetings in the CBC Park, preferably no masks needed

CBC Futsal cup always won by Arobs or Accesa, one day by CBC

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After hours rooftop yoga with the other CBCers

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The CBC rooftop parties, a perfect time to bond

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