The last few years have been transformational for the office market. Despite the uncertainty that marked the first half of 2020, interest in renting office space has increased. However, the range of preferences landlords have to meet has also increased.  Tenants demand more bang for their buck, increased safety measures, and more natural light and outdoor areas for their office space. A recent Commercial Cafe survey reports the following worker preferences.

More People Searching for Commercial Office Spaces Now Than Before the Pandemic

Despite the obvious disruption caused by the lockdowns to the commercial real estate sector, the numbers invite a much more encouraging outlook for the coming future. Between March 2020 and September 2021, searches zigzagged consistent with the trend prior to the pandemic, before eventually taking off and settling on a higher plateau during the closing months of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022.

Respondents Aim for Single-Tenant Leases in Smaller Office Buildings

Asked about the motivation behind their current search for commercial office space, respondents’ options were relatively evenly spread among the available answers – although the need for a smaller workspace that could accommodate hotdesking or a hybrid system had with a slight edge.

While nearly a quarter said their search had been prompted by a need to downsize their workplace footprint, roughly 16% of those who completed the office survey said they were looking for a larger place. Once again, the data gives credence to the argument that remote working hasn’t made offices obsolete – as news of big companies either investing in prime real estate, renewing, or expanding their leases has continued to pour in.  Interestingly, 23% of respondents indicated that they’d like to be the sole occupiers of a building. Finally, 14% were interested in a quality upgrade to their workspace.

Core Demands Remain Largely Unchanged, But Tenants Yearn for Luminous Offices, Outdoor Spaces & Safety Measures

Extended periods of lockdown and isolation have made many workers eager to escape the confines of an artificially lit workplace, sealed off from the outside environment. Perhaps that’s why roughly 12% of office survey participants highlighted the need for more natural light and generous outdoor areas as one of the main preferences they had developed following the pandemic. As expected, COVID-19 safety measures (along with general sanitation practices) ranked high with roughly 19% of respondents

Respondents Aiming for a Full Return to Office

Unsurprisingly, most of those who were actively searching for a new workspace were aiming for either a full return to the office (43%) or a hybrid system that requires employees to spend most of their time in the office (31%).  However, even among those actively searching for listings, no less than 27% claim to be looking for a space that can accommodate staff that will be mostly working from home.  Notably, coworking offices have also reemerged as a great alternative for businesses aiming to be nimble and ready to scale as needed.