Why the Office Is Still the Place to Be

Despite remote work’s rise during the pandemic, offices endure as sought-after spaces in the business world.

In his New York Times article, What Bosses Really Think About the Future of the Office,” journalist David Gelles explores how some professionals are returning to their offices for the connections made there. For instance, this summer, executives and employees at Harrison Street, a Chicago-based private real estate investment firm, went back to working in their downtown headquarters. “We’re going to be able to do a better job if we’re together,” said Chris Merrill, Harrison Street’s cofounder and chief executive. “Listening and sitting in people’s offices and bumping into somebody in the lunchroom and sharing an idea — that just doesn’t happen over Zoom.”

Working in person affords colleagues more than the opportunity to easily collaborate. Before the pandemic, going to the office helped professionals keep their work from spilling into their home lives. But Gelles writes, “With smartphones, Slack, email and Zoom making it possible to work anywhere at any time, the boundary between one’s professional life and personal life is getting blurrier than ever.” Burnout and resignations have increased in corporate America as that blurring continues.

The resurgence of corporate offices owes to several factors, including its role in aiding knowledge transfer and work-life balance. According to an October JLL office real estate report, occupancy loss slowed to -7.3 m.s.f. of net absorption in the third quarter, its lowest since the outset of the pandemic. Gross leasing volumes rose by a further 7.8% in the third quarter, approaching 40 million SF for the first time since the onset of the pandemic. Lower-cost secondary markets in the Sun Belt and the West dominated this quarter, recording 18.7% growth in leasing compared to a 7.5% rise in gateway markets given looser business regulations as well as individual and corporate movement towards affordability. These numbers signal in-person work’s sustained appeal.

While professionals aren’t abandoning offices, they are having to adapt to new realities and myriad challenges brought on by the pandemic and a changing economy.