The pandemic has prompted companies to rethink how to use workspaces, both from a standpoint of managing physical real estate and in managers’ expectations for employees. “We’re going to be very cautious that managers don’t shift into patterns that you have to come into the office for an important meeting, since that’s not possible if people move away,” says Yelp Chief People Officer Carolyn Patterson.
REI has laid out concrete plans for fewer days in the office and ditched a plan for a centralized corporate campus.
Most executives agree there are advantages to both working in an office and working from home. As Americans return to work, they likely will be doing a little bit of both.
Office landlords are hoping to see vacancies dwindle and leasing transactions pick back up. They are touting the office as a collaborative space that boosts productivity.Last August, REI listed its newly built corporate headquarters in Bellevue, Washington, for sale without ever even moving into the building.
It marked a stunning reversal. In 2016, when REI announced plans for the campus, it said it would create a gathering place to foster creativity and bring together thousands of employees. But with many of its employees working remotely because of the pandemic, the outdoor recreation retailer decided to put the 8-acre complex on the market. It quickly pivoted its plans for office space to incorporate smaller, satellite locations throughout the Seattle suburbs.
The Bellevue building was sold to Facebook by September. And in February, REI announced its first satellite office in Issaquah, Washington — a nearly 70,000-square-foot building that can hold up to 400 people and is surrounded by hiking trails, lakes and parks. The company is also testing a model that allows employees to work from home for up to five days each week.