What tenants need to return to work: Equiem’s 2020 Global Office Tenant Report

Global property technology company, Equiem, has published the results of its most comprehensive global office occupier survey to date, providing landlords and tenants alike with valuable insights into occupier sentiment amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hosted via Equiem’s world-leading tenant experience platform, which is used by over 175,000 office workers worldwide, the study provides insights into the impact of COVID-19 on workers’ remote work situations, expectations for their return to the office and health and safety concerns. In addition, Equiem interviewed owner and managing agents representing over 20 landlords – adding further perspective of what systems, protocols and other changes landlords will need to implement in order for tenants to feel safe when they return.

The survey was conducted in April and May 2020 when most buildings were locked down and the vast majority of workers were at home; more than 4,500 responses were collected from across the Equiem’s vast US, UK, Ireland and Australian portfolio.

Highlights of the study include:

  • Occupiers are productive at home, but struggle with sub-optimal work environments and a lack of interaction with colleagues. 82% of occupiers reported to be as or more productive at home, however 45% missed conversations with colleagues. In addition, 56% desired better work setups, 25% wished for better access to home health and wellness options and 18% needed better access to work-from-home resources.
  • 60% of occupiers won’t return to office until ‘it feels safe’. Critical factors for them to return are information and communication. Upon returning, over 80% of occupiers expect up-to-date information on active in-building COVID cases, new safety procedures (including use of facilities), and cleaning procedures from their landlords or company. Over 60% also expect current office density information to be available.
  • Occupiers who worked in-office during lockdown anticipate a greater risk of infection once everyone returns. 45% believe the office presents a low to very low risk of infection during lockdown, with this number dropping to 22% when lockdown ends.
  • Tenant experience platforms have become important channels to acquire information for occupiers. 70% of occupiers believe COVID-19 related updates on their Equiem platform have been highly valuable.
  • Remote work is here to stay. 65% of occupiers expect to work from home once a week or more once restrictions are lifted, compared to the 28% who were doing so before. Landlords similarly agree that there will likely be an increase in remote working post-lockdown.
  • Australian occupiers believe they are more productive than before the lockdown, while US and UK occupiers believe they are as productive as before.
  • Effective density management is key for both occupiers and landlords. 48% of occupiers believe changes are required to reduce likelihood of incidental contact, while 58% of landlords are concerned about controlling and monitoring social distancing, particularly in lifts and reception areas.
  • Building occupancy remains extremely low. 72% of office buildings had less than 10% occupancy, while 17% reported occupancy between 10% to 20%
  • Landlords’ and property managers’ biggest concerns include adhering to social distancing measures, managing lift/elevator access, increased cleaning and maintaining air quality in the building
  • Changes planned to accommodate tenants returning to work include installing cardless entry, new/improved air filtration systems, changes to communal spaces and frequent cleaning of elevators and amenity spaces.
  • Landlords have varied predictions about the future: 75% of landlords envision a medium transition with business as usual by the end of the year, whereas 17% of landlords see a short transition (BAU by July/Aug), and 8% see a long and slow transition – 12 months or more– ramping up to a new standard of security and cleaning requirements.

With over 9,000 companies registered, more occupiers use Equiem’s tenant engagement platform than any other in the market. A key element is the data analytics stream which provides clients with current information about how users are interacting with their buildings and the service they expect from their landlords.

Commenting on the research, Gabrielle McMillan, Equiem CEO, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown period has accelerated the evolution of the office. More occupiers will work from home after lockdown ends, therefore owners need to be even more proactive in understanding their needs and delivering solutions to address them. They will need to rebuild trust with occupiers, reposition the office as a safe and productive environment, while being able to communicate with tenants who are in the office and at home.”