Office Features to Look Out for in the Second Half of 2021

The US office market has been dramatically transformed by the changes to work practices and mobility restrictions implemented throughout the course of 2020 and early 2021. Whilst it was predicted that the market would slowly rebound starting in recent months, the demands of office occupiers will have changed substantially since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is a brief overview of the main things to look for in an office space during the second half of 2021.

Office Layout

Flexible spaces

Flexibility remains a key consideration when choosing an office, not only in terms of lease terms, but also office layouts. Many office-based companies are still unsure about their ability to retain staff in the face of reduced revenue, combating this uncertainty by implementing rotating shifts or flexible work hours, two factors which have ultimately led to businesses struggling to identify the total headcount in the office at any given time.

This uncertainty will lead to an increase in demand for modular spaces that can be adjusted depending on the number of people present in the workplace. These kinds of dynamic layouts have been an option for several years, often going hand in hand with trends towards multi-functional office spaces. Some of the main elements that typify flexible workspaces include:

  •  Blurred indoor to outdoor transitions.
  •  Movable walls and room dividers.
  •  Lightweight or mobile office furniture.
  •  Adjustable or movable lighting.

Socially distanced layouts

During the COVID-19 pandemic the CDC issued guidelines for socially distanced workplaces. In office environments, these include setting workstations 6 feet apart, keeping meetings to small groups, and making outdoor seating available. Given the current vaccination rates and the growing clarity surrounding the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses are beginning to return to consider a return to more traditional layouts. However, to air on the side of caution, it is recommended that businesses look for offices that facilitate the CDC guidelines until the end of 2021.

Well-Being and Productivity

Spaces that promote creativity and collaboration

Office density is likely to decrease, with some believing that the return of the cubicle is inevitable, a notion that is often associated with a lack of cooperation and discussion. However, a more likely scenario is an increase in demand for office units that provide a mix of private and shared spaces, as well as workspaces with gardens or outdoor areas that can be configured into work and meeting areas.

Space for team members to focus

Flexible office layouts facilitate the creation of dedicated workspaces that help staff focus. Dedicated ‘quiet zones’ have been a trend for many years, with insulated or soundproof pods being particularly popular as a way to separate employees and mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19. Other things to look for include:

  •  Offices with library rooms (whether private or shared by the building).
  •  Exposure to natural light throughout the workday, irrespective of the activity performed.
  •  Ergonomic office furniture in work and rest areas.

Spaces that reduce stress and anxiety

Humans are naturally attuned to green spaces. Enabling a connection between employees and the great outdoors can have highly beneficial effects, as evidenced by several studies pointing to the following positive impacts of introducing plants to the office such as:

  •  Improved concentration, which in turn promotes a more creative environment, as confirmed by a 2015 study.
  •  Fewer negative emotions. A 2021 study by the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) found a significant reduction in stress, anxiety, and anger after plants were introduced in office environments.
  •  Another study found a 15% boost in overall productivity in offices where plants could be seen from every desk.
  •  Improved mood and motivation, leading to lower absenteeism.

In addition to indoor plants, there are other elements that have a great potential to boost employee well-being and productivity. These include:

  •  ‘Living walls’ featuring a variety of greenery.
  •  Water features.
  •  Noise reduction technology.
  •  Smart temperature control.

Furthermore, we anticipate high demand for office units in buildings that have achieved LEED certification or meet WELL building standards, as well as those that incorporate elements of biophilic interior design. These environmental practices serve to promote a healthier office environment, whilst simultaneously benefitting businesses economically by lowering utility bills.

Leisure and break areas

Wellness-focused spaces will become more important in the near future. Having dedicated physical and mental wellness areas will be an attractive perk for many office occupiers, given the value of social interaction and well-being for overall creativity and employee satisfaction.

Subject to the end of the pandemic, some other elements that could potentially increase the appeal of office spaces in the second half of 2021 include:

  •  Domesticated workspaces, a trend that has been growing in popularity due to its ability to create a more inviting and comfortable environment. This can be achieved with the addition of plants, rugs, couches, or household amenities; in short, anything that helps employees feel at home in the office.
  •  Meditation or relaxation rooms.
  •  Games rooms.
  •  Access to vertical or rooftop gardens that can facilitate safe socializing and walking meetings.
  •  Access to fitness areas within the office building or, alternatively, proximity to COVID-safe fitness facilities.

Flexible spaces that allow for creative collaboration and increased employee well-being will drive office demand in the office real estate market during the second half of 2021 and beyond. If you are currently seeking office space, the suggestions made in this article can help give your business a competitive edge.


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United States Commercial Property Supply and Vacancy Rates 2021 (Part 1)
United States Commercial Property Supply and Vacancy Rates 2021 (Part 2)
United States Office Rental Market – Trends for 2021