Kenny Kane is the Chief Operating Officer at Firmspace.
Even with vaccine distribution plans rolling out for high-risk populations around the country in Q1, the year ahead is likely to be spent still working primarily remotely for many professionals. So, it’s time to think about what “work from anywhere” (WFA) really means, and what kind of real estate is required in order to make it happen.
As white-collar professionals who have participated in the great WFH experience, we all know that the challenges of working in your home environment every day are legion. Some days, it seems nearly impossible to overcome environmental noise and local distractions. With this knowledge close at hand, it’s no stretch to imagine just how challenging working from “anywhere” might be.
But WFA doesn’t mean totally untethering from stable work environments or even from office rental altogether, and the trends we’re observing firsthand in commercial real estate and coworking spaces bear this out.
The Rise Of Short-Term Commercial Leases
While there are plenty of discounted commercial office spaces to rent for those looking for subleases and vacancies, individuals tend to be more interested in spaces that come fully furnished where IT is proactively managed by experts and they don’t have to worry about refilling the coffee carafe.
From day office rentals to monthly memberships to six-month contracts to annual leases, more people are searching for shorter-term office rentals with a preference for furnished spaces that don’t require them to invest in a total build-out, hiring additional administrative staff and coordinating local services.
We don’t know what economic conditions will be six months or one year from now, but we can be confident that the changes induced by the ongoing pandemic will continue to shape willingness to invest in long-term commercial leases for at least the next year.
Daily Office Rentals Are On The Rise For A Reason
Around the country, hotel chains have converted their reservation periods to hourly to accommodate professionals who need an office away from home. But as anyone who has ever stayed up at night to the sound of their neighbor’s television knows, these spaces aren’t necessarily all that quiet, private or suited for deep work.
Hotels aren’t the only industry that’s seized on this opportunity. Coworking spaces have also adapted their membership models to the new needs of professionals, and this isn’t going away anytime soon. As office workers have discovered the benefits of having the latitude to work fully remote, to shape their schedules and to provide care for children or loved ones within this flexible environment, it only makes sense that the majority of those who are working from home will want to maintain this flexibility.
Once interstate and international travel become safe again, we may just see a boom in workers who have been waiting to try out a stint in a new city. But they’ll need a place where they can do the work they need wherever they go. And that’s where coworking spaces are filling this gap in the market with private offices for rent by the day.
The Need To Work From Anywhere Without Compromise
The coworking industry has shifted away from the dichotomy of old-school executive suites and startup-filled spaces styled after converted warehouses. Today, professionals are looking for office space that provides them with what they need without requiring that they shoehorn their business to fit into a different cultural model.
People who WFA, wherever they are, need to have access to a professional office environment that provides:
• Space free of distracting noises.
• Privacy from passersby.
• Secure, high-speed internet access.
This kind of stable coworking environment isn’t hard to imagine, and it’s easy to imagine how broad the appeal of this model will be to professionals in cities where Covid-19 may continue to trigger rolling travel restrictions and for another demographic entirely.
Think of all those who contributed to the spike in RV sales this year and the ranks of van-dwelling digital nomads who live on the edges of national parks. Those living in built-out Sprinter vans are remotely working from the road in the most literal sense, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need to rent an office where they can participate in meetings and demonstrate a level of polish that #vanlife doesn’t facilitate.
How WFA Will Transform The Coworking Market
As WFA has been tested and proven to be productive, preferred and cost-effective in many industries, we can expect to see this model continue to expand in the months ahead. It is entirely possible that in the near term, the future of office culture will be a shift in which offices become like gyms: a place where members pay to go to accomplish specific goals, perhaps every day for some and once a week for others.
Many professionals will want to continue to work from home with a desk downtown where they can handle sensitive business, meet in a professional environment and go heads down. As with the gym model, we’ll see some spaces that opt for a mentality of pricepoint over product, while others will provide an elevated private office experience that’s tailored to the needs of specific industries.
In some ways, this is already the case within the coworking industry. In 2021, as people continue to be empowered to determine where they work best, this model will cause a wave of disruption in the commercial real estate market.
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