One Year Post-COVID Outbreak: NYC Office Market Update

Post COVID Office Re-Entry

It’s been a long 12 months. Spring is in the air, and New York is waking up after a long nap. But, the landscape seems different. Yes, people are starting to come back into the city but everyday office occupancy is still hovering around 15%. Some businesses are operating within a hybrid model, having their staff in the office some days and other days working from home. And finally, some businesses are still working from home entirely, however, they’re still thinking about their real estate. So with that, I thought I’d highlight some of the interesting thoughts I have collected from market leaders in the last 12 months. The goal is to help, as there are many organizations who are asking — what now?

Last August I spoke with Jim Pirot, the head of Cresa’s Project Management in New York, about what re-entry back into the office would look like. One of the more important things a landlord has to consider is indoor air quality and clean buildings. You can read my blog, What Re-Entry Looks Like with Jim Pirot of Cresa, for my full interview with Jim for more insight into re-occupancy in Manhattan office buildings and air quality.

Around the same time, I also spoke with Marc Spector of Spectorgroup, an architectural firm in New York. As we transition back to the office, tons of questions have come up as people are concerned with entering buildings, touching surfaces, or crowding into elevators. Marc spoke about a list of ideas Spectorgroup has for office set-ups post-covid, as well as a ‘touchless economy’. Check out my blog on our interview for more details and for the full list of ideas.

Mark Benhar, of Benhar Office Interiors, also provided me with great insight into the future of office interiors last summer. Mark felt that design-wise, a return to the office could be as simple as removing chairs from a conference room so you can spread folks out a bit. Another idea is installing clear dividers in-between desks to block potential transmission. Mark mentioned a new trend he was helping some clients with, and that’s installing phone booths into offices, so people have more privacy when they’re on a call. Learn more about how office design and furniture is changing after-covid in my full interview with Mark.

For those who have returned to their office on a hybrid schedule, you may want to check out this blog, The Role of Technology In & Out of the Office with Chris Smith, where I interviewed Chris Smith, the CEO of Cloud 9 Smart. With some people in the office, and others working from home, Cloud 9 Smart’s technology is a perfect fit. One option is creating several meeting rooms and linking them together via virtual rooms (meaning Zoom, GoToMeeting, and the like). That way many folks can still get the sense of being at an in-person meeting, without violating social distancing measures. Chris and his company have some great ideas for technology after re-entry to the office. 

Signage is also an important concern for landlords and businesses that are thinking of transitioning back into the workplace. Jen Meilan of 71 Visuals talked to me about the importance of signage, especially in Manhattan where businesses share elevators and many other common areas in a building. Her company, 71 Visuals, has been paying a lot of attention to the ever-changing CDC guidelines and putting together a full signage package for clients based on those guidelines. From floor graphics to wall signs that bear social distancing reminders, to new signs on conference rooms where they reduce the occupancy level so 6-foot distancing is possible, 71 Visuals really put together quite the package. Check out the full blog post for more important information on signage from Jen.

For those that are still having their employees work from home, you need to think about if you plan to return to your office space, if you want to sublease it, or if you want to try to get out of the lease altogether. In the fall I wrote a blog about how to break up with your landlord, highlighting the four things you can do if you want to end your lease
early.  It is worth checking out if you’re thinking of leaving your office space. 

If you are considering subleasing, then you’re going to want to know how to ‘stand out in a sea of subleases.’ To make sure your office space stands out when you want to sublease it, make sure you utilize great marketing materials, spruce up the place, price it well, hire an advisor, and show it virtually.

And finally, I will leave you with my latest blog, which showcases key dates that you need to know if you are leasing office space in New York. There is so much valuable data in the lease! I like to call it found money. Make sure you are aware of all the key dates discussed here.

Any questions? Reach out to me, gcohen@cresa.com, and I’d be happy to help.

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