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March 8, 2022
Return to Office plans are filled with uncertainty, but one thing is clear – offices aren’t going away

Over the past two years, the purpose for office space has evolved more rapidly than we’ve ever seen in Meyer’s 107-year history.

Early in the pandemic, working from home almost immediately became the standard for office-based workers. Over the last 18 months it has developed into a hybrid approach that has taken root for many employers around the globe.

As the path for Covid continues to change, it seems every week brings new stories of major companies everywhere shifting their Return to Office (RTO) plans – from local leaders like Travelers indefinitely delaying its 7,000 Greater Hartford office workers’ planned return to their offices this week to Ford postponing the return of its 30,000 office workers from January to March.

Meyer’s commercial teams work with hundreds of corporations and large employers throughout the Northeast business corridor to plan and execute office moves, retrofitting, and renovations. In our work with clients, we hear and see firsthand what these companies are planning and the challenges they face.

We recently sat down with Pete Oman from our commercial group to hear his observations about the state of RTO and office space strategy in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. Here are some of the highlights from the conversation:

Commitment to Offices

Many of our clients tell us they see growing signs of the importance of getting back to the office. One growing concern is that work-from-home productivity appears to be tailing off after nearly two years. Leaders at these organizations also worry about the adverse effect of remote work on their corporate cultures – particularly in this hyper-competitive talent market – and are challenged to build relationships and retain their best employees if they’re never meeting in-person.
With these growing concerns, several of our clients are reiterating their long-term commitment to their offices – and nearly all are getting creative with plans for how they will use their physical space moving forward.

Reconfiguring for Hybrid and Hoteling

Nearly every client we’ve talked to is planning to formalize a hybrid model, where employees mix time working in the office with working from home. To support this shift, several are reconfiguring their space to prepare for a “hoteling” model – eliminating assigned seats/offices and creating workspaces and systems that allow employees to reserve desks for the type of work they will do during the days they are physically present.

In their space planning discussions, several organizations are recognizing that they won’t need as much square footage in their facilities and are preparing for this future state by “giving space back” to landlords. For some, paying to end their leases early with an eye on the longer-term is proving to be the financially prudent move.

Hungry to get back to the office

While many workers are reluctant, some segments strongly desire getting back to the office. For example, we’re hearing that many younger professionals are eager to grow their capabilities and careers with face-to-face mentoring that is much more effective in an office environment rather than virtual. There is also the factor of promotability that weighs on their desire to return. Certain skills that may garner a promotion are harder for managers to identify on video conferences.
Many workers also miss the social connections and “water cooler moments” at work and are eager to build relationships that are an important aspect to building a career as well as making work enjoyable and gratifying.

Meyer’s response

To help organizations navigate these big changes to the next-generation workplace, Meyer is helping clients in a number of ways.

First, we are working with organizations to reconfigure their spaces to facilitate social distancing and to prepare for hoteling.

Second, we are decommissioning some offices to end leases in the most advantageous ways.

Lastly, as our clients transition their space to accommodate these changes, furniture, fixtures and information assets may need to be stored offsite and our warehouse services offer both long and short-term solutions.

Preparing for What’s Next

The changes to the corporate office environment have accelerated so quickly in recent years that many organizations have fundamental questions about how they should be thinking and preparing for what’s next. If you are developing plans for your facilities moving forward or have questions about options, we’re here to help.