Panelists at Connect Now on Thursday argued that while office space should be reevaluated and evolve as needed on an annual basis, it should not go away for good.
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A lot of predictions have floated around recently about what the future of the office holds now that so many businesses have transitioned to working remotely in the era of COVID-19. While some have suggested that many offices many be shuttered permanently, three brokers who spoke during a panel at Inman Connect Now on Thursday entitled “Will 2021 Be The Death of The Office?” disagreed with that sentiment.
Although the pandemic has made many people reevaluate their office space, Craig McClelland, COO of Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Metro Brokers, argued that because of the significant investment an office represents, any business should be evaluating that space on an annual basis — not just during a pandemic.
“Your second most [high] expense that you have is going to be your offices,” McClelland told Connect Now attendees.
Sabrina Brown, broker/owner of Brown & Brown Real Estate, said her office space is an integral part of her company because it fosters collaboration and the company’s culture.
“What it really breaks down to for us is culture,” Brown said. “And so we spend a lot of time in that open [office area].”
“I know that I need [a] big space for us to collaborate together, and that’s why [my agents are] here,” Brown added. “Is it the death of the office? I don’t think so, because there are so many needs of different agents.”
Brown and McClelland went on to elaborate how office space can help foster company culture with the panel’s moderator Tiffany Curry, owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Tiffany Curry & Co., Realtors.
“I think it’s absolutely critical for the culture of the company,” McClelland added.
His company works in what he characterized as a “college campus”-like environment, where agents can work across different offices while having access to the same quality of resources.
“We use tons of technology,” McClelland said. “But I need [agents] to come into the office to be part of our family.”
Similarly, all three brokers agreed that a company’s office space can have a significant impact on recruiting efforts too.
Brown said that whenever she has vendors or other visitors come to her brokerage’s office, many of them express what a welcoming environment it is, “and that’s just part of our culture,” she said.
“Anybody that walks through the door, they are family, and that’s how we treat everyone,” Brown added. “It’s set up kind of like home … It’s set up for the agent to feel comfortable and want to be here. I do think it’s helped attract the kind of agents that I want here.”
Brown added that brown or corporate-looking furniture will not be found in her office, but rather, colorful pieces and personalized art that shows off her company’s personality. “It’s a little blingy,” she explained.
McClelland echoed his company’s own desire to create a personalized office environment that’s tailored to his specific company culture and noted that companies shouldn’t try to bend their culture to what other people may want.
“[Sabrina is] very specific on what her culture is, and she’s okay with not being a right fit for everybody,” he said. “Our culture is, we have funky artwork and we’re very functional and business-oriented … and we’re not right for everybody.”
“I think that’s how many brokerages lose their way, [by trying to be a good fit for everyone],” he added.
All three panelists agreed that offices can also be a valuable bridge to the community, whether that’s through bringing in local artwork, or hosting community events.
“We did trunk or treat this year,” Brown said. “We had cars rolling [in] all night [and] we had to get more candy.”
“I think, no, there’s not going to be a death of the office,” McClelland said. “But I do think that more and more of our space will be mixed-purpose space, [with some used for the community].”
“It’s going to evolve, and it should be evolving — it should evolve every year,” he added.