It's a dilemma that many companies face: how and when should employees return to the office when the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown have resulted in large numbers of employees still working from home.
The CEO of a commercial real estate company says the work environment needs to be improved to encourage people again – and not just with security technologies like air quality sensors.
"You basically have to seduce your people into coming to the office and working there rather than from home," said Coen van Oostrom, CEO of real estate developer Edge, who appeared on CNBC's "Squawk Box Europe" on Monday.
"We believe this will be the end of the big batteries of people working side by side on a large floor with screens in between. That is no longer necessary. You can do your job anywhere. We believe that." The office is the place where you come together, where the culture is built, where new people come and who can learn and understand how a company works. But to do that you have to have a work environment that is amazing, "added van Oostrom.
He suggested adding elements like additional stairs as design features so that people can avoid the tight confines of an elevator when moving between floors.
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Office space could be treated more like an exclusive club, added van Oostom – and those not entering a workplace could miss this. "Now if someone gets the message," Hey, you can work from home, full-time, you can stay at home five days a week, "then within five to ten years I would say it a person is very likely to lose their job to AI (artificial intelligence) or to be outsourced. If you are not part of the inner circle of a company and have been invited to come to this clubhouse, you will have a very difficult time. "
Van Oostrom's comments come when Wells Fargo data showed that US commercial real estate "in trouble" lost an average of 27% of its value, according to a Financial Times report on Sunday.
"What we're seeing right now is that the hotels are really bad, the retail is not good at all. Offices, the jury is still not there. It's still a big question, how many people are coming back to Office Two Home days a week, something that we really like and that we will be doing all the time, we are not sure, "explained van Oostrom. Some companies may have employees in the office two days a week and also invest in employees working from home, he suggested. Companies can save money by renting less office space, but what they keep will be of higher quality, he added.
It's not just offices that are being renovated. The houses are also being redesigned to provide better working conditions, said van Oostrom. "We're going to see apartment buildings that have one floor like a home office, but not in your house, but in your building so people don't have to travel to work and don't have to sit in a small apartment with their kids," said he.