Commercial real estate trends turn as workers return to offices one year into pandemic

Experts say trends in commercial real estate are giving a clue to the future of office spaces. Brokers and economists say they are seeing the pandemic’s impact on the return to work.

A year ago this month, COVID-19 forced many companies to remote work. Since then it changed how businesses look at commercial real estate for office space.

Tampa broker Steven Silverman shared what his clients are looking for.

"This particular company is going to look for a smaller space, and they’ve learned that all their employees don’t have to be there at the same time," said Silverman of Tampa Commercial Real Estate.

More companies are now working in blended environments with some staying remote and some returning in-person. Silverman said the health crisis showed employers what they can do without.

"So whether they were using the space or not, they were still in business and they were still paying their leases now as the time comes for renewal. There may be some rethinking of that," said Silverman.

The Tampa Bay market is growing, so more office space is in the pipeline. But brokers expect a changing demand for it.

"One trend I have seen is people are moving out to offices in the suburban areas, just moving out from the city and taking smaller spaces," said Silverman.

Going to work in person used to mean shared spaces, but office furniture companies said that changed too.

"The number one thing that we see is they want barriers in their offices and make where people work and their work stations taller," said Bill Adams, the co-owner and president of Reimagine Office Furnishings in Tampa.

Adams expects a drop in demand over the next few years. But he anticipates another pandemic change, like how companies can cut down on a virus spreading through a workplace.

"We don’t know how to do that yet, and I think that’s going to be a big focus on the furniture manufacturers because it’s going to be a big focus for the people that buy office furniture," said Adams.

Real estate brokers said the market can change, so they will wait and see how well office spaces bounce back over the next few years.