For offices too, there will be an “after” Covid-19

For the office too, there will be a “day after”.Everything changed on March 17th. That day, millions of employees and thousands of companies wondered how they were going to reconcile production and confinement, professional life and private life. On paper, there was nothing to prevent a massive use of telework from home. This was at least the opinion of the Ministry of Labor, which estimated that 4 out of 10 French people are able to telecommute, or 12 million people. To compare with a study by Dares, the statistical directorate of the (even!) Ministry of Labor, which estimated, that nearly 2 million employees telecommuted, in view of the responses from the companies.

The crisis went through there. While four years ago, more than half of the companies questioned by Dares said that it was impossible for them to implement telework before 2025-2026, all of them had, willy-nilly, to use it massively . Today, at the beginning of May, 25% of the working population would work at home. Beyond the challenges of privacy and compliance with labor law, what are the implications for corporate premises? The stakes are high: real estate is their second item of expenditure … just after wages.

Millennials love their desk

Two studies have just thrown a particularly interesting light on the mindset of decision-makers and employees on this question. The first comes from the site ChooseMyCompany, which interviewed, with the FIFG, 10,000 employees on teleworking. Cleaving! More than two-thirds of employees are satisfied with working outside the company (mainly managers, women, those over 50, etc.), but 17% categorically reject telework. Among them, especially men and millennials. These employees are new to their professional lives and appreciate the connections and support they can find in the office.

The second study was carried out by BNP Paribas Real Estate. It confirms the French interest in telework: 8 out of 10 are attracted. But this barometer goes further and opens up new perspectives on work organization. With two surprises: first, overwhelmingly for leaders. 75% believe that it will develop. And, second surprise, the end of the “all-office”. 56% of respondents think that everyone should be allowed to work wherever they want, since no one will be forced to work anymore in a specific office. “The blow was so harsh that one might think that the lines have moved!” Recognizes Sylvain Hasse, director of business services at BNP Paribas Real Estate.

An already saturated market

On the web, testimonies pour in from employees who wish to continue teleworking as much as possible. For example, this tweet from an employee of a company of 90 people in the west of France, which explains: “the box summoned its employees visio to ask them what they want for deconfinement. Result: 100% telework! The boss (microphone not cut) dropped, annoyed, a 'why I bother keeping office space. “The next day, a management email said that, after the consultation, it would be telework for everyone until September. And that if the experience was conclusive, the rent budget could be redirected and turned into bonuses and home space for telework. ”

“In the coming months, companies will have to rethink their work organization to take into account these new aspirations … And in the coming years, companies will also have to review the very design of work spaces”, predicts Sylvain Hasse. The crisis comes as thehe office market was not already to the best of his form: 465,000 square meters of offices were placed in the Paris region in the first quarter, compared to 538,000 square meters in 2019, in the same period. In a recent analysis, the board Knight frank France recognized that we could not know “what would have been the level of volumes sold if the health crisis had not broken out. ” But this 14% drop in office rental and sale is not entirely ofe health measures. The market was already oversupplied in many sectors. Thus, in La Défense, 370,000 square meters of office space is available, while average consumption is more like 95,000 square meters. The north of the Parisian suburbs has only 10% of its pre-leased construction site, three times less than usual. The market was tight. The coronavirus may well tip it over.

A narrowed request

Many leaders had been thinking about this for many months. It will accelerate, as confirmed by responsible for project support for JLL corporate real estate consultancy, Rémi Calvayrac: “The events of the past few weeks will inevitably impact the demand of users, who today openly question the place of offices in the organization of work. Some customers who were looking for buildings of 10,000 square meters contacted us to explain that they were now looking for units that were half the size, because they realized that their activity lent themselves very well to telework. ”

For Olivier Estève, deputy managing director of Covivio, a property company at the head of thousands of square meters of offices, this episode will accelerate the existing trend: “telework, which was considered by some companies as an advantage offered to the employee, will probably now be integrated more systematically into the reflections relating to the organization of work. Without denying the benefits of a physical place with its ability to create emulation, serendipity … and the pleasure of meeting colleagues, as one of our recent studies reminded us. “ The listed group, which hosts several headquarters of large companies, finds that this accelerates the thinking of its customers for more flex-office. This may be the end of open spaces, with their “benchmarks” of employees in a row of onions, occupied with individual tasks.

Is the suburb better?

The promoter Altarea, who is building Landscape, a huge office complex in La Défense, and the new Orange headquarters (57,000 m²) in Issy-les Moulineaux, is also learning from these changes in working methods. . “Social distancing has led us to make more use of video interviews. The two-hour meetings in the regions, which actually took you a day and a half of transport, will be reduced”, anticipates Adrien Blanc, president of Altarea Entreprise. “In Île-de-France, recalls Sylvain Hasse, the average transport time in the tertiary sector is 55 minutes, morning and evening. The post-Covid context will make this even more important …” This could have repercussions on the choice of geographic locations of companies.

“Many customers, explains Olivier Estève, could turn to less central locations, but always better connected, with fewer individual offices, but more meeting spaces.” In reality, the market is in the process of repositioning itself. On the one hand, “statutory” offices, such as law firms or tech start-ups, which need a central location to attract talent. And on the other, more “utilitarian” offices, where the emphasis will be on connectivity, services and meeting spaces. Large companies had started this movement before the pandemic: “for the first time, explains Adrien Blanc, last year we delivered more offices in the provinces than in the Paris region”. Consequence, according to Serge Vayer, director Tenant Representation of Savills France, “we could observe a return to a concern for controlling expenses and a different strategy in terms of workspace”.

The zero office is not for tomorrow

However, the office and the head office are not dead. “The office will become the base camp,” predicts Flore Pradère, Watch and Prospective director of JLL, a place of exchange, which will allow the emergence of the unexpected and creation. This involves resizing part of the spaces of current work. ” For Eric Cosserat, CEO of Perial, one of the French leaders in SCPI, who manages an office portfolio, “this will lead us to go more towards our tenants, to offer them more services, to be even more attentive to connectivity. and the modularity of the offices that we will offer. “

But the “zero office” is not for tomorrow: “we will still need offices, says Sylvain Hasse. Because the corporate culture remains important. And informal communication remains essential: increase your daily exchanges with your colleagues by 1,500 employees and you will understand why we cannot do without it! ” Not to mention that not all workers agree to transform their living room into a workplace: 45% of those surveyed by BNP Paribas Real Estate fear this apparent freedom to work and 59% believe that it is a threat to cohesion and to the culture of their business… See you Monday, with those who have decided to end their confinement. Or their telework!


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