What the Remote Work Trend Means for Commercial Real Estate

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The trend of companies either supporting their employees with remote work options or requiring employees to work remotely due to concerns around COVID has grown exponentially in the past year. According to Forbes, the remote workforce will grow to 26.7 percent or one in every four employees in 2021. Would this immense growth be occurring if it wasn’t for the lifestyle changes that were forced by the Coronavirus pandemic? Perhaps not. But the trend for moving toward more remote workers was building momentum prior to the upheaval in early 2019, and it’s likely that landlords and businesses will see this trend continue to hold and build momentum regardless of regulations or concerns around public health.

Why you might ask? Well, recent surveys from Liquid Space show that over 85 percent of millennial workers would prefer or are actively seeking remote full-time employment opportunities. Considering that the majority of new, and mid-level employees are millennials at the moment, the desire for remote options cannot be ignored.

So what does this mean for landlords, property owners and business owners?

At Northwest Key Commercial Real Estate and Property Management, we have noticed that this trend is helping some businesses and pushing others to shift and adjust. Let’s break down what we’ve seen and our anticipated pros and cons in the marketplace over the next twelve months.

For Landlords:

Diversify Your Tenants

One of the biggest lessons the COVID pandemic has taught us so far is that it can be problematic to have all of one type of tenant in your property; for example, all restaurants, fitness studios or corporate office tenants. According to a report by Bookings.com, the hardest hit industries in the Western United States include, technology, hospitality and leisure. With so many industries in flux right now, the needs these businesses have for commercial space are in the same boat.

There are, however, some business niches and industries that have taken off, or grown exponentially during this time. For example, Forbes points to takeout food-service companies and restaurants that have successfully converted to takeout meal options as businesses that are now booming in the post-pandemic world. The best way to keep your commercial property stable and profitable is to diversify your tenants.

Shared Leasing, or Reworking

If you are sitting on empty space, you can either reformat and rework the space as one option, or look at splitting or offering shared tenant options. As long as the tenants are equally responsible and can provide a detailed plan for the space-share, you might find more interest and accountability for small businesses who collaborate for cost savings. Especially with the downsizing trend occurring in the corporate world.

For Businesses:

Downsize and Conserve

If you own a small business or large services company that has historically provided an office for employees, now might be the time to move the company ‘entirely online’ or remote so that you can conserve those expenditures. With the other trends coming out of the pandemic, like a greater need for cyber security, and competent employee monitoring software, your saved revenue from downsizing, will likely need to be utilized elsewhere.

Go for Hybrid

If your business can’t handle it, or you just don’t feel comfortable with an entirely remote team, consider a hybrid option. The corporate office hybrids popping up and look a lot of different ways, but for some companies, it works to have some of your employees be in a physical office, and some as remote staff. The workplace trends most recently show that many workers want to get back into the office for a variety of reasons, including loneliness and lack of focus at home. Workplace Mental Health states that employees need socialization for their mental wellbeing. The evolving desire to work in an office environment is a plus for your business if you are debating downsizing or see a potential for upsizing. You may consider an office setup that mixes the two — where there are floating desks in your office space that multiple employees utilize when needed.

Invest in Cybersecurity

Remember earlier when we mentioned that cyber security trend? According to an article by Packetlabs, a cyber security company, over 25 percent of small businesses in the U.S. were targets of cyber-attacks in 2020, and that number will only increase until 2021. It’s now part of the fabric of the small business, large business rule book that investment in cyber security is a must.

Retrain, and Retool

With the repeated shutdowns, rule changes and regulations that continue to change and shift due to the COVID-19 pandemic, your business needs to be proactive about retraining employees and vendors and offering opportunities to retool skillsets so that your team can stay abreast of the shifting regulatory and industry landscape. According to an article by McKinsky.com, 30 percent of the U.S. workforce will be going remote this year, and three-quarters of workers are using digital channels for the first time in their careers. That makes the need for retraining imminent to the success of your team or organization in the long term.

Ultimately, your bottom line will thank you if you are proactive in responding to the new trends in corporate, food service, travel and tech.

At Northwest Key, we see a transformation occurring in many industries and companies, but this transformation does not need to negatively affect your investment or business. The opportunity to grow, shift and evolve has arrived. How will your company pivot?

Contact one of our brokers at Northwest Key for more information about available commercial properties and lease opportunities in Central Oregon.

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Amy Cecil —Northwest Key, Commercial Real Estate & Property Management

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