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Back to offices with the end of the state of emergency? Offices could remain only 30 per cent occupied until after the summer

Jenny Pizarro • 19/04/2021

After the lifting of the state of exception on 9 May, offices will continue to be occupied at 20% or 30%, as at present, and it will not be until after the summer that companies will order a generalised return. It will then be when the great structural change in the sector will begin with flexibility policies that did not exist before.

This is what the head of offices at the real estate consultancy Cushman & Wakefield, Javier Bernades, says, who believes that in the long term "it is normal for some companies to make adjustments of between 10% and 15% of their current square metres".
Bernades notes that companies are returning to the office, but with caution and in shifts, because the priority is the medical safety of employees.

He explains that with the security measures, occupancies do not exceed 20-30% and that this will be maintained throughout the covid vaccination process.

"The workers are coming back with hyper-cautious plans that put the safety of the people first. Companies are also letting workers decide freely whether to go or not, because there are people who are afraid, but as there is a general desire to return to the office and be with the people they work with on a daily basis, companies are starting to open their offices," he points out.
He adds that, after 9 May, "this will continue to be the same, because between now and 9 May, not even thirty percent of the population will be vaccinated and the issue of people's safety will come before everything else". "There is no point in going to the office and the next day having everyone sick," he stresses.

After the summer

And if vaccination is the guiding principle for companies, the question is what will happen after the summer, when 70% of the adult population is expected to be vaccinated.

Bernades says that "that is when we are going to see a generalised position of companies bringing people back to the office, but already - and this is the great novelty and the great structural change - with flexibility policies that did not exist before".
These will mark the new working models of a "hybrid ecosystem" in which the worker will have "the freedom to choose where they can work, which is not just a choice between the office or at home, but to work where they want a percentage of time per week and the rest they can go to the office".

30% teleworking

That could be 10 %, 20 % or 30 % of the time, as the new law regulating teleworking establishes 30 % as the percentage from which the company has to start paying the costs to the employee, says the expert.

"This is probably a conditioning factor when it comes to companies setting the ceiling for teleworking", he explains, although he reminds us that the costs to be paid to the employee are being decided by agreement, "so it depends on the agreement and the impact on your operating account".

 This means that the decision "is going to be made on a case-by-case basis, but I have the impression that there are going to be companies that are not going to want to incur those costs and are going to play with telework percentages of 20 and 30%", he argues.

No long-term strategy

 As for the hiring of offices, the Cushman expert says that companies are still "not clear" on the long-term strategy and that it will depend a lot on how these flexibility measures are carried out.

He notes that some are already implementing floor space reductions, but that "it is more likely to respond to the need for immediate savings, given the economic circumstances, than to a long-term plan for a new ways of working strategy".
According to his calculations, the impact on the reduction of floor space may be 10 to 15 %, "but will then be compensated by business growth".

However, he stresses that this will be seen little by little, because many have contracts in force.

Sublease

He says that in the current operations "you see everything", but that in general they are considering terms of flexibility such as"incorporating subelase rights in the contracts in case you have more than enough space".

"The truth is that there is still no clear strategy from the companies because there is no single formula to reach this conclusion", Bernades points out, convinced that for a period of time the world will be doing trial and error and each company will have its own solution, because each one is different.

"It's going to be like this and it's going to go by teams, by functions, by individuals, by company culture, there are many factors. There is no absolute truth, the only truth in the sector is that new generations are going to be incorporated, which will force the transformation of offices, which has now accelerated with covid".

Source: Expansión


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Jenny Pizarro
Jenny Pizarro

Partner, Head of Business Development • Barcelona

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