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Where is the Future of Commercial Office Space Headed in Salt Lake County?

Posted By Regional Development
May 26, 2021

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Unprecedented numbers of the Salt Lake County office-based workforce transitioned to working from home during the worst of COVID-19, and many still do today.

It’s no surprise that it significantly impacted office space and that market. Businesses are reevaluating how they work in the office and the future of design.

Where Does Office Space Stand?

Nadia Letey, senior vice president at CBRE, shared fascinating insights into occupancy and workplace trends with us. According to Nadia, the current pace of economic recovery and resilience of Salt Lake County’s economy will pave the way for a brighter 2021.

Industry trends from CBRE showed 65% of its accounts partially returned to the office by April 2021.

Subleasing is on the rise, and being seen across the U.S. Fortunately, the Salt Lake market shouldn’t see the same trajectory as 2020; current total vacancy is 16.2%. However, the forecast for our area puts vacancy at 24% if 2020 trends continue, with the majority driven by sublease.

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Rental rates are strong and increasing; landlords are trying to hold firm on lease rates, but accommodating higher concession packages in tenant improvements and the like.

An interesting trend in office space use for one industry stands out. It seems call centers are one industry that is being more aggressive in projecting keeping employees working from home. The industry is seeing positives from managing productivity remotely and increasing its retention of employees, which has traditionally been more difficult. It will be interesting to watch how this trend continues or is maintained.

Where is Office Space Headed?

CBRE expects to see further absorption of Class A Office Space moving forward as companies try to find a way to get workers to come back and want to physically be in the office, rather than at home. This will further the amenities strategy many have come to know and expect from tech companies coming to Utah and elsewhere in the country. 

Dave Anderson, with Babcock design, also presented insights, focused to the design of office space.

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“Hot-Desking,” (or “hoteling,” “we space”, desk sharing, etc.) will provide flexible workstations as some office spaces reduce their footprint to accommodate employees working from home multiple days per week. The challenges of desk sharing, Dave says, are technology and ease of use. If it’s not convenient, employees aren’t going to see it as an option equal to or better than working from home.

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What to Look for Moving Forward

#1: A Hybrid Workplace

There will be a mix of work from home and office work. People will come back, but many don’t know what exactly that will look like and what the percentage will be.

Common opinions are gravitating towards a three-day model, with either all employees in office on the same days, and others looking at staggered schedules. This will result in a mixed-presence collaboration, that will be dependent on technology moving forward.

#2: Employees Prefer Home

There’s a very strong desire from employees to continue working from home. A study by Babcock Design showed that three key benefits stood out to those who transitioned to a work-from-home environment:

  • Productivity increased (62%)
  • Elimination of commute time (34%)
  • More connection with family (34%)

 #3 Solutions to What was Lost

There were universal things that unraveled while working from home and will need ongoing attention. Babcock Design shared the top challenges it found through its surveys:

  • IT problems (34%)
  • Reduced belonging/culture (31%)
  • Lack of collaboration (29%)