Despite Corona and the home office trend – the office is not going out

Whatever the trend towards the home office, the office will not disappear for the moment of everyday work. German companies are still a bit hesitant when it comes to leasing new space, but so far there has been no large-scale office abandonment. Economists, brokers and real estate experts expect Corona to revolutionize the world of work with more home offices, but they see a swansong for the office as premature.

About a year and a half ago, millions of employees moved to the home office almost overnight due to the corona pandemic, and an ever-growing majority of employees are now back in the business. . In July, only a good quarter worked from home, at least part of the time, estimated the Ifo Institute in Munich. Economists attribute this not only to the end of the home office requirement for businesses, which trade associations have vehemently opposed. “People are increasingly looking for personal contact in the office,” said Jean-Victor Alipour, scientist at Ifo.

Employees in service occupations still work more than average within their walls – but the trend is down here too. In industry, commerce and construction, where home offices are only possible to a limited extent, do-it-yourselfers are only a small minority.

The fact that companies have not written off offices also shows the resilience of office markets – despite the economic slump of the pandemic. While leading broker Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) saw rentals drop by more than a third in Germany’s seven largest cities in crisis year 2020, there was no major drop. since then. In the first half of the year, JLL recorded take-up of 1.31 million square meters with stable prime rents, down just one percent from the same period a year earlier.

Even if the pre-crisis level has not yet been reached: “The market quickly caught up,” explains Stephan Leimbach, office leasing manager at JLL Germany. Thanks to state aid, there were no large-scale bankruptcies and the labor market was also robust. Either way, most leases last for years. For the second half of the year, JLL expects rentals to pick up and in 2021 an increase of 5% compared to the previous year. Competitors like Colliers and BNP Paribas Real Estate also expect better deals.

Office buildings located in prime locations are also very popular with investors. The alliance with the Bavarian Supply Chamber bought the office tower “T1” in the banking district of Frankfurt for the record sum of 1.4 billion euros. Four years before the opening, two-thirds of the space was let to tenants in the banking and consulting sector.

Companies are tempted to save money by using less office space, but some bosses like their employees to be in the office. “If there was a legal right to work from home, I would definitely need 50% more people, because efficiency would suffer,” Wolfgang Grupp, director of textile manufacturer Trigema, told Spiegel recently.

Amid the pandemic, many companies are still working on what the new world of work might look like. A pattern emerges in discussions with customers, said expert JLL Leimbach. “Most businesses can imagine working from home for one to two days and people should come to the office for three to four days. “

The approaches of many companies are going in this direction. At Porsche, for example, employees will be able to work on the go for up to twelve days per month if they are not currently working in areas such as production. At Siemens, all employees around the world should be able to work on the move two to three days a week on average. Deutsche Bahn wants to make mobile working possible “where existing work demands permit”, and Bosch and Coca-Cola are also relying on a mix of office and home office.

The software publisher SAP goes further. “While the job doesn’t necessarily need to be in a certain location, employees are free to choose their location,” said Cawa Younosi, HR manager for Germany. In general, the home office is gaining more ground in the information industry than in industry, shows a study from the ZEW research center in Mannheim.

Businesses not only want their employees to come to the office every now and then, the demand comes from the staff as well. “A lot of young people like to go into the company because they often live in small apartments, are single and are looking for company,” explains Leimbach. In companies, there is great uncertainty about the new world of work. “A lot of people are waiting to see what the competition will do and who will be the first to jump.”

For some companies, after months of telecommuting, the first thing to do is to get back to normal functioning before trying flexible models, explains Michael Voigtländer, real estate expert at the Institut der deutschen Wirtschaft (IW). The move towards the home office can no longer be stopped, as flexible working models are also a good argument for recruiting skilled workers. But the implementation is not that simple. “40% less office space doesn’t mean 40% less space.”

In practice, flexible models such as divided desks have their drawbacks. Voigtländer refers to studies according to which most employees would like to work from home on Wednesdays and Fridays. “There are a lot of arrangements to be made as to who can come to the office and when. “

The trend is for more distance between offices and more spaces for communication, explains Leimbach of JLL. “We see our own private office with a fixed location and a name tag on the door of the retreat. From a technical point of view, shared offices are not a problem. It’s more a matter of culture moving to a place that recently had family photos of colleagues. “For many, it’s like they’re sitting in someone else’s living room.”


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