Leased/owned office space downsizing likely to accelerate

Knowledge work is currently in an awkward transition out of centralized commuter offices (CCOs) and dispersed to home offices. Many organizations have adopted what’s referred to as “hybrid” arrangements with staff working in the CCO a set number of scheduled days, typically two or three days a week. For knowledge workers, the hybrid arrangement is disruptive. The vast majority need only one workspace as shown during the COVID-19 public health measures.

A home office is that location. It provides convenient access to food and coffee that fuel knowledge work, particularly given many if not most CCOs lack on site cafeterias. In addition, workspaces are customized to knowledge workers’ preferred equipment and ergonomics. Some, for example, may prefer sit/stand desks or kneeling chairs that aren’t present in both home offices and CCOs. Finally, their most portable knowledge work tool – the brain – does not require multiple locations in order to function effectively.

The homes of some knowledge workers don’t offer a good office setting. They may not have a suitable space for a home office setup or other circumstances that make it impractical as a regular workplace. These staff need and prefer the CCO to get their work done. But they are a small minority and don’t justify the amount of office space organizations must finance. They can get by with only a fraction of their current owned and leased space and considerably reduce operating expense.

Organizational management is recognizing the trend and potential sizable cost savings and rightsizing their office space footprints accordingly. Expect this to accelerate over the next few years.