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The Impact of Remote Working on Commercial Real Estate

For decades, one of the biggest markers of prestige for a business was its property: an imposing, large-scale office building was the sign of a truly successful company.

But this idea is changing, as increasing numbers of us turn away from the traditional model of commuting every day into a central corporate HQ. This is happening around the world – in the UK, for example, 15% of employees work from home, while in India the figure has already hit 50%.

As a result, the decreasing number of us using the traditional model is rendering these big, sole-occupancy office buildings a smaller part of the bigger picture. For brokers, this could be seen as a threat to their bottom line, as their portfolio of large, single-site offerings becomes more and more outdated.

This isn’t, however, the whole story – it’s also a rare opportunity to pivot your sales strategy and take advantage of the reshaped ideas about working. Using data gathered from our large client base through our annual Great Big Survey* (GBS), we explore how brokers can reshape their offering to capitalise on the increasing preference for flexibility in how – and where – we do our jobs.

How the challenges to the office emerged
Social and economic trends which have been growing for decades are now reshaping our ideas about the modern office. For commercial brokers, they represent a challenge – and an opportunity – that you can’t afford to ignore.

The origin of these trends lies in 1973, when the OPEC oil crisis and gridlock brought the USA to a standstill. It began to become clear that bringing hundreds of workers into large corporate HQs every day was not going to be sustainable in the long run.

On the east coast of the USA that year, the World Trade Center was officially opened – an office complex totalling 1.24 million m2 of floorspace and containing what was  then the world’s tallest building.

Key Takeaways

  • The big corporate HQ is a traditional institution facing contemporary challenges – Brokers need to respond to companies’ needs for more agile solutions that match the flexibility and speed they expect elsewhere in their business.
  • Long-term market trends are turning against the traditional office deal – Companies are looking to reduce the amount of space they lease per worker – and brokers’ strategies should take this into account.
  • Workers don’t like the traditional office – but they also don’t like working at home – It’s key to be able to offer them a midway house between the two, combining a short commute and easy accessibility with a professional, team-oriented environment.
  • The future of brokering is selling workspace, not just offices – Offering flexible, scalable solutions as well as options for traditional long-term leases allows you to meet the needs of companies and their staff alike.
  • Reinventing the deal can mean better cash flow and an improved bottom line – Brokers aren’t just defending their business against a threat, they’ve got a real opportunity to find a better way of working for everyone – including themselves.