Skip to main content

Is Work from Home Really Working?

An office broker’s perspective on the battle many company execs face daily

Lease Rate - $14.24
Vacancy- 4.70%


Lease Rate - $21.74
Vacancy- 9.20%


Lease Rate - $5.08
Vacancy- 4.00%


When I sat down to write this column about where office space is headed, a couple of colleagues came into my office to talk about a tricky tenant issue they were working to resolve. After the back-and-forth, the analysis, the brainstorming, and the problem solving, we formulated a solution. It is this type of impromptu collaboration that drives dynamic businesses across many industries… and it’s harder to accomplish from our homes.

For those like me that enjoy being in the office, it’s because we like the creativity, the collaboration, the culture, the ability to train, and the energy you derive when you work with the right team. Numerous CEO’s, presidents, and business owners that I work with daily have told me they want their people back in the office as soon as possible. They have worked hard to create a culture and maintaining it has presented difficult challenges when employees are working from their beds, kitchen tables, or patios. To no surprise, this culture factor also directly correlates with employee retention.

For those that believe in working from home or a hybrid format, they will say they don’t have to fight the commute, worry about rising gas prices, or struggle finding childcare. Overall, they feel like they are enjoying a more balanced life with less stress.

The BBC7 recently shared an article with a survey that cited 80% of those UK workers expressed working from home has negatively impacted their mental health. The same survey showed 81% of those under-35s feared loneliness and reported heightened levels of stress and anxiety. There is a feeling of never being “offline” and always being available. While these negative impacts certainly don’t impact everyone, psychologists warn that we shouldn’t ignore those that haven’t adapted to this new lifestyle.

Different demographics are going to experience remote work in different ways. If you think about your current staff, millennial mothers will most likely benefit from working from home, and an employee living with their partner with a strong social circle will likely experience fewer negative impacts compared to an employee who lives alone and is new to the area.
During a meeting with a client and their executive team about 4 months ago, I sat and observed as they debated the fate of their office space. This group of experienced, intelligent, reasonable business leaders were at a loss when trying to determine the future of their physical space.

Time will certainly tell how this debate plays out, but it’s important to keep in mind there is no playbook that tells people how to react in the aftermath of a pandemic. It will be up to each employer to figure out what works best for their teams. As I have advised clients, it’s better to do things incrementally than to just jump into the deep end.

In response to the same BBC survey7, Kevin Rockman, a management professor at George Mason University’s School of Business commented, “Implementing remote work is really about re-imaging what it means for each and every person to be at work.”

What works best isn’t necessarily a one-size-fits all solution; and what works best now, might not work best in 3 months, 6 months, or even a year from now. Easier said than done, but employers have to find the balance of flexibility to give their employees the tools, resources, and socialization to remain productive.

As we continue to move forward and make our way out of the pandemic, trends have started to emerge. It’s becoming clear that hybrid will have a permanent seat at the table and time will tell whether a 4-in-1-out or a 3-in-2-out work week proves to be effective.

In terms of real estate, employers are now looking to relocate to higher quality, amenity-centric buildings that tenants can leverage in their recruitment efforts. A similar “flight to quality,” occurred in the aftermath of the 2008 recession. Having that extra edge may be the difference in attracting top talent.

Locally, Farmers Insurance put 340,000 SF out for sublease while Cerner vacated 660,000 SF in Kansas City, Kansas. It’s easy to get pessimistic and to say traditional office space is dead when you hear of that kind of space hitting the market.

I, however, remain optimistic because I am watching the small to mid-sized local and regional companies who are not only retaining their office space, but in some cases, expanding their footprint because they believe in the power of bringing people together. Trust the local and regional entrepreneurs to show us the way and in no time, the national tenants will follow suit.

It will be fascinating to look back in 5 years to see what worked, what didn’t, and how we might approach the work environment in a rapidly changing world.