BUSINESS + ECONOMY

Office Space: What happens when the Utah workforce goes back to normal?

Mar 11, 2021, 3:02 PM
Office space may look more like this work from home setup in the future in Utah...
FILE PHOTO: Research finds a connection between housing prices and more people working from home. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)
(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah companies become more comfortable with their employees working from home throughout the pandemic, what happens to the office space they once occupied? And is working from home here to stay?

Real estate agent and former 2020 Utah gubernatorial candidate Thomas Wright said the unused office space will be taken by other companies immigrating to Utah. He joined Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to talk it over.

Upside of the pandemic for office space in Utah

Wright said COVID-19 accelerated the use of technology in the United States.

“None of us had video conference a year ago. Now it’s just a regular way of life,” he said.

Wright said even if Utah companies no longer need all their office space, others will move in because the demand is high.

“There’s been this tremendous migration pattern away from large urban centers, like San Francisco and New York and  . . . they’re finding their way to Utah. So even if Utah companies here reassess the way they look at their office space, I think there’ll be plenty of other people that will step in and absorb that space,” Wright said.

Related: Log on in paradise: The exotic destinations inviting remote workers

“So you don’t anticipate that these office buildings that I’m looking at in downtown Salt Lake will will stay vacant?” Debbie asked.

Wright said he thinks companies will re-evaluate the ways they use their office space. It will no longer be a place for individuals inside cubicles working in isolation but the space will be used for meetings, team building, collaboration and face-to face-interactions.

“So, no, I’m not worried about the commercial market short-term nor long-term in the state of Utah,” he said.

What does the future of remote work look like?

By all accounts, remote work or telework will keep increasing into the next decade.

A survey conducted by Upwork predicts:

  • 36.2 million workers — 22% of Americans — will be working remotely by the year 2025, which is an 87% increase from pre-pandemic levels.
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expects 50% of its workforce to be working remotely by 2030.

“I think employees will continue to work remotely going forward, but I think it’ll be a hybrid,” Wright said. “I think that’s a really good word. And I think what ends up happening is that the economy and the free market in our country will always adjust, and it will always do fine because we’re innovative and we’re always growing.”

“If companies are able to shrink their footprint, does that allow them to maybe move to a better location?” Dave asked.

Wright said the option of teleworking can increase the efficiency of how a company and its workforce conduct daily business.

“I’d rather have my employee working for an hour than driving for an hour. That’s better efficiency for me,” he said. “How do I increase the efficiency of my business so it’s operating better and more efficiently? That’s what you’re seeing happening and that will continue to happen.”

 

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  

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Office Space: What happens when the Utah workforce goes back to normal?