- Only 5.5% of companies have reduced their office space during the pandemic, despite more people working from home.
- And only 4% of private sector companies said they expected to downsize in the next 12 months.
- Regardless of square footage, companies are still thinking about changing their offices.
As workers settled into their sofas or home offices during the pandemic, many employers were anticipating a reduction in their real estate – but new data shows companies aren’t giving up office space after all.
Since the start of the pandemic, only 5.5% of companies have reduced their office space while 3.6% have increased in size, according to new data on private sector companies in the world. US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). More than 90% didn’t change their square footage at all and 92.4% said they plan to stay the same size over the next 12 months.
Although remote work has taken over during the pandemic, many American employers have dismissed it as a permanent business model. As the pandemic enters its third year, employers argue that the office is still important for team collaboration. To ensure that the workplace remains an integral part of the job, employers are not downsizing, but rather reorganizing workplaces to meet their ever-changing needs.
The following chart shows the share of companies in different industries that have shrunk in size since the start of the pandemic. The information sector, which includes the telecommunications and publishing industries among others, has led the way with more than 10% fewer offices since the start of the pandemic:
Desks may be the same size, but they look different
As the pandemic has challenged attitudes about the way they work, new data from the BLS revealed that 60% of companies said “all of their employees” “rarely or never telecommute” at the time of the data collection (from July 27 to September 30, 2021). This was especially true in accommodation and food services; natural resources and mining; and retail where work tends to be done in person.
So, even if they are not reducing their workforce, companies have thought about changing the way their offices look and function. A Labor Trends Index Survey conducted by Edelman Data x Intelligence in January 2021 found that “66% of executives say their company is planning a hybrid workspace overhaul.”
“We just don’t really know that when the fear of the virus subsides, whether people’s feelings about going back to the office will change,” Michael White, managing director of architecture at Gensler, Recount the LA Times. “But there’s still a pretty big need that most employees, and certainly most companies, see for the office in a very deep way.”
Other BLS data shows how the pandemic has impacted people’s ability to work. The following chart using data from the Current Population Survey highlights the share of people telecommuting due to the pandemic over time. Importantly, although January’s share appears higher than at the end of 2021, the BLS writes that “updated population controls are introduced each year with the release of January data.”
Hybrid working does not threaten demand for office space
While BLS data suggests that employers in professional and business services were more likely to abandon office space than most other industries, the percentage remains low as the sector saw only an 8 percent decrease. 5% of its size. The decline is likely attributed to the rise of hybrid work models, which have allowed employees to choose when they work from home or in the office.
Although the model is popular, it does not threaten the demand for office space. According to the Harvard Business Review, new data suggests office space reductions of 1% to 2% on average, implying that the reductions are related to density rather than space.
“Employers are remodeling offices to make them more welcoming social spaces that encourage face-to-face collaboration, creativity, and chance interactions,” the Harvard researchers wrote.
A study by RJE, an interior design firm, claims that more and more employers are creating modern workspaces for their employees. As they transform their workplaces, the hope is to encourage collaborative working and employee retention.
“A reduction in surface area and people on site means that every part of the space is intentional,” the EJN researchers said. wrote. “From acoustics to mobile furniture to sensors, every element should focus on improving collaboration from in-person interactions or creating the equivalent for remote teams.”
According to JLL, a real estate company, improving workspaces can be key to driving innovation and participation. The company conducted a survey of 2,000 office workers in 10 countries and determined that 70% of respondents viewed the office as the best place to build team spirit and connect with management.
The American workplace is changing, but that doesn’t mean the need for office space is going to wane anytime soon. As employers navigate a new normal, employees will still have the option of returning to their desks.