The Platform


Within the last year, I wrote several articles focused on the “work-from-home” shift taking hold and not being a temporary fix for many companies dealing with the pandemic. Some people thought my prediction was premature, but it turns out to be right on target.

Last week, I presented this at the quarterly meeting of the Continental Automated Buildings Association over a Zoom call.

Commercial leasing will become very competitive

Now, we are going from anecdotal evidence to empirical evidence with survey numbers which will surprise everyone when it comes to the percentage of the workforce who want to stay home for good at this point.

An international company surveyed their employees as to who would want to work-from-home five days a week just as COVID was beginning and they got an answer of 6%. As time went on and everyone was working from home, they looked at different options for all their workforce to come back to: continue working from home, a hybrid schedule of two or three days a week in the office, to return to a full-time schedule in the office.

When they recently took a second survey, the number of people who wanted to work-from-home skyrocketed to 46%. This was out of a substantial sample rate of 1,000 employees across the United States. We can review the new empirical evidence and add it to the anecdotal evidence we already have discussed, and we begin to realize this is the tip of the iceberg.

The observation that work-from-home is going to become a permanent option for many companies is becoming a reality. Companies see a win-win situation with more people working from home at a higher productivity level and cutting monthly office expenses and corporate leasing.

Of course, not all jobs can be accomplished from home, but many office and information jobs can. Most information workers can work from home as easily as they can work out of a cubicle at work. Companies are realizing this and are looking very strongly at reducing their corporate footprint in commercial office buildings.

A reverse game of musical chairs

Occupancy rates in commercial buildings are going to sink. In some cases, they may plummet significantly if the buildings do not offer intelligent amenities like redundant power and redundant broadband connectivity. With every corporation using some type of mission-critical application to operate their businesses today, building owners need to ensure there is no single point-of-failure within the infrastructure that supports the office space.

Right now, every one out of three applications are considered mission-critical. That number is rising to one out of every two applications. Demands will become stronger for intelligent amenities as more applications become mission-critical to an organization’s day-to-day operations. Reliability, redundancy, and resiliency will be must-haves when it comes to power and broadband connectivity in corporate leasing.

If a building does not have redundant power coming in on diverse routing, or redundant broadband connectivity serving the building on diverse routing, that building will be considered technologically obsolete to support mission-critical applications.

With less demand for corporate office space, think of the commercial market as a reverse game of musical chairs. Instead of taking away a chair creating a shortage of options, adding many more empty chairs, but some with only three legs instead of four, will give companies more options to choose from as well as unreliable options to totally avoid. Those vacant chairs will cease to be viable, just like the office space which does not offer redundant intelligent amenities to support mission-critical applications. It doesn’t matter if the building is in a downtown or a suburban office park setting.

Property owners and property management companies should start revising their strategies to attract and maintain corporate tenants today because this paradigm shift is already in progress. The same will hold true on multi-tenant residential buildings where many workers will establish a work-from-home office. If the residential high-rises do not have redundant power or fast broadband connectivity, they will drop in occupancy rates as well.

Municipalities also need to be aware of this shift

Fewer people going into work equates to fewer commuters on mass transit as well as fewer people going out to lunch and shopping in downtown areas. Local and state governments need to be aware of this. It will definitely impact revenue streams taken for granted when it comes to ridership on mass transit as well as sales tax revenues.

With the Delta variant running rampant across many major markets, the need to improve buildings will continue, and at the same time, more people will opt to work-from-home.

The new Delta variant should create a new sense of urgency in those managing commercial space to come up with some important additions to building infrastructure: redundancy, reliability, and resiliency, in order to attract and maintain high occupancy rates.

James Carlini is a strategist for mission critical networks, technology, and intelligent infrastructure. Since 1986, he has been president of Carlini and Associates. Besides being an author, keynote speaker, and strategic consultant on large mission critical networks including the planning and design for the Chicago 911 center, the Chicago Mercantile Exchange trading floor networks, and the international network for GLOBEX, he has served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University.