3 ways return to office plans have evolved for landlords and tenants

In the spring of 2021, the commercial real estate sector looked ahead to a bright future as the global vaccine rollout was underway, and businesses everywhere considered how best to bring their employees back into the office.

But just as all things in today’s world are subject to change on a moment’s notice, so has the thinking of landlords and tenants in the face of unexpected speed bumps in the return to “the new normal,” including the rise of the delta variant and discussions surrounding vaccine and health requirements.

MRI conducted two surveys – the first in March and the second in September 2021 – to see how landlord and tenant views on return to office plans have changed over time. Now that businesses have 2022 in their sights, let’s take a look to see where both parties stand today.

Firming up return to office timing

Our first survey from Q1 2021 indicated that a large percentage of tenants were unsure as to when they’d bring more than 75% of their workforce back into the office, and landlords, didn’t expect to go back into the office until later in the fall or winter.

Data from the Q3 2021 survey, however, shows that tenants and landlords now have stronger ideas as to when employees will be brought back into the office. 57% of corporate tenants expect to have more than half of their workforce back in the office by the end of Q1 2022, while landlords were more optimistic, with 67% expecting the majority of workers to be back onsite by the end of Q4 2021.

Return to the office policies are being cemented

In our survey from the first half of 2021, landlords and occupiers alike agreed that some time in-office should be required for employees, but plans were not yet set in stone. Our data from Q3 2021 shows that 70% of respondents planned to institute hybrid work policies that include onsite requirements, formalizing plans as return dates get closer.

Policies around hybrid work and office requirements have largely firmed up across the board, with nearly 80% of all respondents increasing the availability of hybrid work. We also see that 69% of respondents said that the worldwide shift to remote working during the pandemic has fundamentally changed their long-term approach to space usage, which is consistent with the initial survey. Nearly half of the respondents plan seating capacity for less than 75% of their workforce.

Occupiers and landlords need flexible technology to meet new challenges

In Q1 2021, landlords felt mostly confident that they had the technology in place to handle a return to the office, but this is no longer the case. With changing space requirements and the need to better understand the health of employees and visitors that enter the building, both occupiers and landlords now see a strong need to adopt technologies to handle changing requirements.

According to the data, 70% of corporate occupiers plan to adopt new technologies to manage changes in space usage. The percentage of landlords that thought their existing solutions were sufficient to manage changes in office usage dropped from 61% to 45% between the two 2021 surveys. The most recent results reveal that 61% of landlords expect to adopt new technologies to handle changing space needs, compared to 55% in the previous survey.

The latter half of 2021 is not turning out the exact way that many predicted, but landlords and tenants are adjusting their expectations and assessing new technologies and their own space requirements in order to facilitate a successful return to the office. As we continue into 2022, communication between all parties and solutions that flex to a business’s individual needs will be crucial in transitioning into a new normal.

Get the full survey data from the report:

MRI Software Market Insights: Views from Real Estate Occupiers and Landlords on the Return to Office, by MRI Software and CoreNet Global

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