After two years of large-scale remote work, do we need more or fewer offices?

That was two years ago, almost today. On May 11, 2020, the first coronavirus-related quarantine ended. For two months, French office workers have been forced to work remotely, with more or less difficulty. Since then, employees have continued to work from home, or not, two or more days a week. Professionals ask themselves: do we need more or fewer offices? and where to place them?

To see more clearly, the Association of Property Directors (ADI), which brings together 400 directors and property managers of public and private companies with a total heritage of 350 million square meters. (1/3 of the entire park, ed.), commissioned a survey from EY in November 2021 of 256 CEOs, financial managers, human resources managers and real estate managers.

Greater Paris: office real estate has not said its last word

The rise of remote work is a game-changer

After falling 10% in 2020, the number of tertiary offices increased by 26% in 2021, notes EY, which lists 1,386 institutions or extensions of headquarters, research and development (R&D) centers or commercial agencies. However: The vast majority (74%) of actors surveyed believe the spread of remote work will change their minds.

“Over 3 years, employees must spend 2.8 days indoors and 2.2 days outdoors (remote work, external meetings, etc.) so says La Tribune Frédéric Goupil de Bouillet, Vice President of the Association of Real Estate Directors. “The office is no longer a place where all tasks are concentrated. With digitization, you can write your articles remotely, submit them, and correct them.” he adds.

“Too rigid” legal framework

Except that more and more companies want their teams back in place. EY also notes that it is necessary to rethink the very function of the office, reorienting it to issues of communication and collaboration. “Figital meetings are unbearable”, exclaims the Vice President of ADI. He doesn’t think so well to say: Who has never had a hard time, in the office or at a remote job, listening to or chatting with one of their co-workers?

The consulting firm also believes that the legal framework for tertiary real estate needs to evolve. There is a fixed lease for 3, 6 and 9 years “too hard” in the eyes of the interviewed leaders. Thus, 41% of those surveyed say that an increased search for flexible lease terms and ways of employment will frustrate their choice in favor of settling down. 51% of them even say their acreage could be reduced by 30% over the next three years.

Opportunity for beginners to work remotely

Observation: EY asked executives about their priorities when choosing locations. First of all, 58% of respondents mentioned their ability to hire and retain their talents, but also, and above all, the ability of newcomers to work remotely. This boom of remote work and flexible work (flexible office) also encourages companies to optimize their surfaces, as the cost criterion is more decisive than ever.

“The social contract has changed: before the pandemic, we needed one position per person; now our employees need a place to work, one more place to phone and one more place to meet. When they come to the office, they should be able to hide in isolated places.” explains Frederic Goupil de Bouillet.

“Real estate producers – consultants, builders, developers … – must provide us with well-designed and more flexible spaces,” continues the Vice President of the Property Managers Association.

Fight against climate change

Another priority criterion: the fight against climate change. Soaring energy prices are prompting property managers to integrate environmental goals into their choices, just as employees are becoming more and more demanding of their companies.

In fact, they no longer have a choice. Effective January 1, 2022, the tertiary decree obliges all owners, landlords and tenants of premises larger than 1,000 square meters to reduce energy consumption compared to 2010: -40% in 2030, -50% in 2040 and -60% in 2050 Buildings account for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in France.

New geographic distribution

Last but not least, the geographic distribution of tomorrow’s offices. If establishments in Île-de-France did “proof of resilience despite the contrasting situations in its core territories”, regional cities “continue to strengthen their positions, but their attractiveness must adapt to these new challenges”, writes hey.

In other words, after many years of building offices on the one hand and housing on the other, local authorities will have to stop distinguishing between business zones (ZDD) and bedroom towns. This is not only an economic imperative, but also an ecological necessity. Outside of Greater Paris, commuting from work to home remains very carbon-intensive because it is still largely driven by private cars due to the lack of clean public transport alternatives.