Our Work Environment: Home vs. Not Home

Drew Sigfridson, SIOR  /   April 16, 2020


I have never been one to work from home.  I like going to the office every morning.  I like the routine of it.  My desk, computer, my files, my fast printer that can scan more than one page at a time, but most of all I enjoy being with all of my co-workers, clients, and OTHER PEOPLE.  I realize now, more than ever, those people and those interactions give me energy, enhanced creativity, a drive to compete and each day is different and meaningful partially because of those interactions and relationships outside of our immediate families.  We are a culture that values our social network.  We are emotional and social beings at heart and a significant component of what drives us to do well, compete, help others, and succeed are the people who are with us in this adventure of life.  For many of us, when we are not physically with our teams or other people in an environment conducive to working, we are not as collaborative, productive, creative or efficient with our time.

Granted, I work in commercial real estate so my opinion is certainly biased towards the benefits of people working in commercial property rather than alone (or with their wife, sister-in-law, and three kids) in their homes.  However, I have a theory about this pandemic and the work environment going forward.  There will be an increased demand for commercial space once we “open back up for business”.  It will take some time, but already some of our clients are indicating an increased demand for industrial space, needing to have more raw material in inventory in case of supply chain shortages, increased need for more finished product to be in stock, a desire for call centers and customer support offices to have more space between each work station, potential trends towards coffee shops having more space in their seating areas.

There will be so many business disruptions and work methods developed from this Covid-19 pandemic, it is impossible to predict the future.  Who knew it would be ok for beer to be delivered to your house?  Boxes of food would be left outside at the market with your grocery list stapled to the side?  Online purchasing of all types of goods has become more convenient.  Electronic wire transfers and remote real estate closings are now a regular occurrence.  We have virtual tours and building inspections with cameras and video.  Video conferences and meetings have actually been quite productive and useful in certain cases.  One significant change which can not be overlooked:  more time with family.  Granted, we all may be getting an over-dose right now, but many of us recognize the importance of more time with our loved ones.  All of these factors will have an impact on our communities, our culture, and our businesses.

Inevitably, some good always comes out of a crisis.  As John F. Kennedy said:  “The Chinese use two brush strokes to write the word ‘crisis.’ One brush stroke stands for danger; the other for opportunity. In a crisis, be aware of the danger–but recognize the opportunity.”  We have an opportunity to improve our work-life balance, be more efficient in our time at work, and spend more time with our families.  The separation of space between work and family has evolved over the years, but its existence is critical.  Commercial property of all types – hospitality, office, medical office, retail, and industrial are more than just physical space for businesses to operate.  These are the places we all bond together, form teams, improve our fitness, find entertainment, camaraderie, derive energy and thrive.  This pandemic has made me realize, more than ever, how much I value not only our office space which creates separation between my work-life and home-life, but also how much I value all of our commercial spaces and the familiar faces I interact with every day at the coffee shop, restaurants, schools, fitness facilities, libraries, museums, theaters, music venues, sports arenas, etc.  I’m certain we will all appreciate our “normal” routines and those commercial spaces, in which we share so much, a little bit more from here on out.