Will business offices exist in future?

With the development of social media and new technology, many big organizations and business owners decide to reduce the floor area and explore the way to use a remote workforce. The benefits are obviously not only cutting down the day-to-day operation costs of the business but that for the staff, they can enjoy the freedom of dictating their own working hours and spend more time with their families instead of wasting the time on commuting.

Worse still, COVID-19 came and ruined the party for many commercial buildings. COVID-19 made working from home widely practised and of course safer. Lockdowns forced working from home to become second nature as technologies grew. So in effect many large businesses got workers to work from home, thus emptying many business premises. Mind you, the employees typically love working from home too. It is likely even when COVID-19 goes away, many employees will not return to working in the offices with the prevalence of pre pandemic times. You could say that COVID-19 rapidly changed the culture to work from home to be more acceptable and successful in the business world.

Things have changed on those beautiful University campuses too. Despite Governments spending loads on them and that they remain state of the art education centres, they are barely used. Unlike the old days now at the lovely university, where you had to get into a lecture theatre to hear and learn something, nowadays you can do your lectures online. So the fun of meeting people and sitting on the grass at uni has ground to a halt.  Even the academia staff can work from home. So the university campuses are barren and barely used. What will happen to them is a great debate. One can imagine that there will be less of them, be reduced in size or used for a different purposes.

Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson strongly support this view by replying in his blog saying that ” In 30 years, as technology moves forward even further, people are going to look back and wonder why offices ever existed.”  Microsoft is actually well on its way, the new Sydney office is 25% smaller than the former premises so that both rent and utilities costs have gone down substantially. Also, many big financial institutions have started working on this as well such as the Commonwealth Bank, Macquarie Bank, BHP and Suncorp.

Some employers still believe that it is worthwhile spending on office premises. They are convinced that some face-to-face communication and interaction among employees is necessary and they also fell a loss of control over remote workforce. However, Microsoft try to overcome these issues by utilising social media and cloud-based software and apps so that people can work on trains, in parks, in restaurants, on ferries. Nowadays, Microsoft manager or colleague can even praise employees and give acknowledgement for a well done job by using an app called Splash to send a message through the company.  Some other organizations use Skype, LinkedIn and WebEX – a web conferencing and meeting tool to ramp up interaction.

Overall, business premises and in particular city business premises have less demand as the work from home brigade grows. One can imagine that there will be less of them, be reduced in size or used for a different purposes.   The value of commercial properties will be affected by the reduction in demand. They will have to work harder to get tenants and perhaps have to consider different purposes, but not all of them can become office hubs is for sure.

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