Navigating the return-to-office rollercoaster

The longer we wait for a full-scale return to the office, the harder it will be to entice staff to return at all
Darren Fleming
Editor's Note

This article is sponsored by Real Strategy Advisors.

Real spacesBy Darren Fleming, MBA
CEO of Real Strategy Advisors
 

Although it may feel as though we’ve been living in a bubble during the pandemic, there has been an incredible amount of accelerated evolution in office space, which has left those of us in the commercial real estate industry speculating on what may come next. As we headed into the fall of 2021, it sure seemed like the pandemic was drawing to a close and employers were preparing to re-occupy their office space. Obviously, this situation hasn’t come to fruition (yet) as we work our way through the pandemic’s fifth wave fuelled by the spread of the Omicron variant.

It’s becoming clear that there won’t be a widely adopted timeline of when it’s safe to go back. Instead, it will largely be up to companies and the discussions to be had with employees surrounding when risk has sufficiently been mitigated to allow for a safe return. The longer we wait for a full-scale return however, the more staff will get used to working from home, and getting them back to the office could be even more challenging than it is now. What’s emerging as a trend is that companies are trying to plan for an office environment that supports hybrid work, improves the quality and functionality of their space, while also revisiting how much space will finally be needed — all within the context of a very tight labour market.

On that note, Ottawa closed out 2021 with an unemployment rate of four per cent, down 0.6 per cent from November. That unemployment rate stands about 5.5 per cent below what was seen (at the pandemic induced peak back in August 2020) and is still below the long-term average. Although there were fewer jobs created in December than November, there was still a net increase in jobs due to part-time positions. Clearly the competition for great talent is high.

Our first issue of the new year will take a look back at the final quarter of 2021 where we saw an increase in leasing activity, based on the fact that office tenants were predicting to be back in the office by the end of the year. We’ll also share some tips on subleasing excess space in our discussion with Vanessa Carment, associate lawyer at Ottawa-based law firm Soloway Wright LLP. Finally, Real Strategy Advisors joined Liz Miller, principal and co-owner of Parallel 45 Design Group Ltd., for this volume’s Construction & Layout entry featuring our client inMotion’s amazing new space.

Happy new year and welcome to 2022!

Darren has been an industry leader in the commercial real estate sector for over 20 years providing expertise in the areas of workplace strategy and commercial real estate brokerage. Darren has worked with some of Ottawa!s most active commercial design builders and major commercial real estate brokerages. With exceptional consulting and business strategy skills, he is an experienced leader and provides C-Suite level advice to his clients.