As CEO of Cove, a provider of real-estate software, Adam Segal sees the remote work experience from the vantage point of both the owners and tenants of office towers, ‘since both use his company’s software.
As the owner of co-working spaces in Washington D.C. and Boston, Segal also understands the needs of remote workers. He’s also a remote worker himself, as he’s working temporarily from Spain while on a family vacation.
As Segal sees it, among the challenges facing office buildings is creating a “destination solution” to entice remote workers who may be unable or unwilling to return after a period of pandemic-inspired remote work.
Remote Report: How are office-building owners getting workers to return to the office?
Adam Segal: It’s a real challenge. We work with tenants and owners to innovate to make the office more of a destination solution and not necessarily an everyday desk.
RR: “Destination solution” is a nice phrase, but what does it mean?
AS: If you actually coordinate and schedule your meetings, [you can] plan [office visits] as a destination for these interactions. These collaborations add significant value.
They are offering fitness routines and on-site yoga, things that you may not be able to get at home. Especially in more modern office buildings, there are amenities that you quite frankly can’t get at home.
There also is a growing demand for suburban office space from individuals looking to set up more remote satellite offices
That’s where there’s opportunities based off suburban assets that may have otherwise not been attractive. People want to work closer home, but not necessarily at home.
RR: Is there any proof to the claims made by businesses and office-tower owners that remote workers hurt corporate culture and innovation? People survived the past year and a half. Businesses did OK.
AS: The last 16 months, objectively, has seen the highest corporate profit level ever. So from a profitability-productivity perspective, it’s never been higher.
It’s going to take the next couple of years for organizations to understand, what they get out of it, and how they can augment their work experience.
I think your point is very valid that there’s limited data on (the relationship between innovation and working in the same space) That’s because we’ve just quite frankly never been in a scenario like this at scale, I don’t think that I don’t think that means that a hybrid solution or leveraging the office in a new way, is somehow less productive than necessary.
RR: Will the solution you’re talking about be available only in class-A properties?
AS: I think if you’re going to bring people together, they’re going to want a great solution. People are very interested in access to office space and workspaces closer to home. Maybe not on a full-scale company basis but more of an individual [basis] and [for] setting up remote satellite offices. And that’s where there’s opportunity based on more suburban assets that may have otherwise not been as attractive.
RR: Have you seen a lot of clients give back office space?
AS: In New York and San Francisco, there’s never been more sublease space on the market. San Francisco, I think, is almost two or three times higher than it’s ever been. People are trying to figure out precisely what’s the right solution, what’s the right sizing and how they will use the space they have. Some companies are going to be entirely remote. Some companies are going to be entirely back in the office five days a week. Most of the rest of the world is going to be somewhere in the middle.
But I think, you know, as that scenario plays itself out, it often does lead to needing less space since you’re just not there as often. Unless you reconfigure it in a different way.
Q: The job market is tight. Some people who don’t want to return to the office are finding remote-working opportunities. Are we at the point where businesses will demand that workers return?
We are still at scale, a long ways away from people making this blanket demand. I don’t even know if you’ll see that. There are always outliers in the press. Retention and attracting new employees are very important. These are concerns of employees that have to be addressed. We haven’t seen a forced push. It’s more of a ‘hey if you want to go’ (to the office). We are going to have a limited number of people returning.
Q: When we started this conversation, you told me that you’re in Spain now. What should companies do about these workers scattered to the wind when the pandemic started because they moved for cheaper housing. Are employers going to ask them to return to the office?
Good question. I think it’s the one thing that is a very practical that many people are talking about, which is they’ve kind of created a new lifestyle since the pandemic. And how does that play into sort of the overall employer-employee relationship? But yeah, I think that’s going to be a legitimate pain point.