Some people have always worked from home, such as real estate writers (like me). But the coronavirus pandemic caused more people to conduct business from home than ever before. Some of those people adjusted well, since they had dedicated home office space already in the home or enough space to create a home office. But not everyone who can work from home is set up for it or enjoys it.
Working from home isn't for everyone. Enter the ''near home'' office. Will this be a trend that'll stick?
What are near home offices?
Near home offices are a new name for co-working space: They're satellite offices located in the same or a nearby town as the employee. Popular in densely populated business districts of countries such as China and India, near home offices allow employees to work in their own community instead of commuting to the big city. Near home offices bridge the gap between working from home and working at the main office.
Short-term leases are key, but there are disadvantages
What co-working or near home spaces offer is flexibility. Co-working tenants sign short-term leases with their commercial landlords -- exactly what's needed when undergoing a pandemic. Who wants to commit to anything long-term with such uncertainty? And as we've seen, the world can change overnight.
Near home offices could be a viable solution to a new, reimagined workspace, but there are some challenges associated with the concept, including the following.
Harder to manage
If employees have the choice every day between going into the main office, working from home, or heading to a near home office, it could prove to be a manager's nightmare just trying to keep tabs on where everyone is at any given time and when they're working. And if a manager chooses for employees rather than letting staff pick when and where they want to work, they would need to justify the reason of who works where. This extra layer of work just trying to manage people could cause confusion.
There are security issues within a mixed office setting, which is what you often have in near home or co-working situations. For the banking industry in particular, near home offices might not be able to meet regulatory rules. Staff who work in near home satellite offices throughout the city are more difficult to monitor. Logging onto a secure network from outside the main office might not be so secure, not to mention the fact strangers could have access to a client's private information if they peer over someone's laptop in a near office space, for example.
The social distancing issue
The trouble with using existing co-working spaces is that they weren't designed with social distancing in mind; rather, they were part of the trend of squeezing as many people as possible into a small space, having open rooms instead of individual offices, and hot desks (where no one has a dedicated desk but instead uses whatever desk is available).
To attract workers, co-working spaces are reconfiguring their areas to allow more space between people and follow better hygiene protocols. New near homes offices can be designed to fit the particular needs of any given business, creating a viable option for employees moving forward.
The Millionacres bottom line
Whether the near home office trend will take hold, people will return to the corporate office, or people will remain working from home on a large scale remains to be seen. It's probably safe to say workplaces will not remain exactly the same as in the past: Many workers, able to achieve a better work-life balance by choosing when and where they work, don't want to completely return to the old way.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused employers to at least think about creating a better experience for their employees. In many cases, it will be more than just a thought: Work could be a place that people can feel safe, enjoy, and be productive. Investors should consider the types of office spaces that create a win-win environment for everyone, and that could be the near home office.