COVID-19 shaping the way businesses small and large approach work spaces

COVID-19 shaping the way businesses small and large approach work spaces
Posted at 3:39 PM, Aug 28, 2020

Are you still working from home? For many of us, that's a yes -- and it's causing some companies to re-think their office space.

The days of hanging around a crowded water cooler and returning to a small cubicle packed next to other small cubicles are likely numbered according to several industry experts. This is not to say that offices will cease to exist, only that they will likely change in layout as a result of the pandemic.

“Throughout the entire quarantine nobody was at the Fisher Building but I was still paying rent," said Zach Lewis, owner of Take Detroit. “We’re a local media company and we publish original online content that features small businesses around the city.”

Since July, Lewis has been headquartered inside Bea's Detroit, a co-working space in Eastern Market. It's a month-to-month agreement, which Lewis said gives him more flexibility. As for larger businesses, ditching the lease altogether due to the pandemic isn't as likely, said Sam Hamburger, VP of acquisitions and leasing at Bedrock Detroit.

“Especially larger office tenants have the benefit of not really being forced to make long term decisions," he told Action News. "When you do look at office leases, a lot them are five, seven, or ten years long."

But COVID-19 has had an impact on how we view work, and work space.

“We believe well into the future more people will be working remotely long-term because they’ve learned how to do it very well," said Jennifer Janus, president of Pophouse, a Detroit-based interior design studio. "They’ll come into the office to really collaborate with team members," she told Action News.

It's part of the reason Janus said Pophouse re-worked an upcoming project Downtown.

“We were in the process of starting construction on two buildings in downtown Detroit, the 1 Campus Martius building and the Chase Building for Quicken Loans and that was back in March," she said.

New renderings of the Quicken Loans project favor a more open layout, with an emphasis on shared work and small group spaces versus individual cubicles, which Janus said are expected to be relied on a lot less.

TheHarvard Business Reviewrecently took a look at how companies in large cities across the country may approach office space in the near future -- including spreading office throughout a city in smaller office spaces, not just all in one building; also spreading out common amenity spaces in a single building.

From the people we spoke with, the hybrid approach is likely to last after the pandemic.

“You do lose value though I think in not having that in-person interaction with people who you’re working with, and feeding off that energy that you do get when you walk into the office everyday," Hamburger said.

“I’m definitely am doing part-time work from home, part-time work from the studio," Lewis told Action News.

The Harvard Business Review also studied a 700-person corporate headquarters recently, and found that 82% of employees there wanted to retain a work-from-home option even after the pandemic.

Janus expects a portion of the Quicken Loans project will be completed as soon as September.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.

Visit our The Rebound Detroit, a place where we are working to help people impacted financially from the coronavirus. We have all the information on everything available to help you through this crisis and how to access it.