The Rise of the Individual Office

While demand for office space significantly decreased after the start of the pandemic, we have seen an increase in need from individual office users.  As many companies shifted to a work-from-home model and closed offices to the majority of their staff, their workers were left with no option but to work from home.  Many workers embraced this model and enjoyed benefits including flexible schedules, more free time saved from not commuting, and being able to work while away from home.
However, there are a multitude of reasons that it can be difficult to work from home.  Other people in the house may be the most common complaint. Whether it is young children, teenagers or a spouse, having others around with non-work demands for your time can be very distracting, making it difficult to stay on task and complete work on time.  Other interruptions include housework, laundry and projects which need to be done and are easy to do ‘for just a few minutes’ between work activities. This has led a group of workers to look for work locations outside of the home and often at their own expense.

The most sought-after space is the single private office with a window, often close to home or near an area with amenities such as restaurants and shopping.  Since remote work allows workers the choice of where to live, choosing one’s own office can also be part of this lifestyle decision.  The office may be located near a school, gym, favorite café or another company that one does business with often.  It may be a short walk or bike-ride away from the house.  Since workers can choose a location close to home, they may not need parking or use it as often as when the office location was not their own choice.

Although companies are beginning to return to the office and demand has strengthened for larger office space, the demand for small offices remains strong and is growing.  We have seen more people looking for small spaces as well as shared workspaces.  Co-working space allows for flexibility for those who do not want to be out of the house every day, but who like to get out a few days a week.  This shift is causing landlords to consider converting larger offices into smaller rental units or shared workspaces that can be leased by the week, day or hour.  This can be seen locally, where the Breakwater building in downtown Traverse City just opened a co-working space with a coffee shop in it and the group redeveloping the K-Mart in Acme is planning a co-working space as well.

By providing remote workers with a good experience they cannot get from home, landlords have an opportunity to increase their occupancy.  Creating a small community where workers can have social interaction with other workers and access to amenities such as high-speed internet, meeting space, yoga or exercise classes, and access to cafes and restaurants, there is a new opportunity in the office market for landlords and developers to attract a new group of tenants to their buildings.

Dan Stiebel
CCIM, Coldwell Banker Schmidt Commercial REALTORS® | Guest Contributor