Office work after Corona: How much home office will be left?

Many companies have understood that work in the home office works well, at least in part. Soon more office buildings could be vacant, according to a study by the Institute of the German Economy.

For months now, many employees have been sitting in their home office and the concept has proven itself for many companies: Siemens has announced that one in two employees will be able to work partly from their home office in the future, and even smaller companies such as Trusted Shops are sticking to the freedom of choice they have enjoyed in recent months.
A recent study by the Institut der Deutschen Wirtschaft, for which 20,000 office workers were surveyed, has now come to the conclusion that home office solutions are so readily adapted by many companies because they save costs. According to figures from the employer-oriented institute in Cologne, 14.8 million employees were already working in offices in 2018. Almost half of these were already working from another location, such as from home, on occasion in 2018/19. According to the survey, this would be possible for another 39 percent.
Now that the companies have recognized the potential, the number could rise significantly in 2020 and in the following years. Even though the term home office is used in a wide variety of contexts – from situational work at home to regular daily teleworking to telework-only jobs – the researchers believe there is likely to be an expansion of different remote working forms.

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Companies could do without some of the offices
But what does that do to the need for office workplaces? This is where the experts are divided. While the IW researchers assume that over time companies will give up some of the space they have rented, this naturally presupposes that employees either share office space or move in with completely different desks, as is the case with Microsoft, for example. Landlords of office services, on the other hand, are more likely to assume that additional capacity will be rented for a longer period of time due to the applicable distance regulations. However, no clear trend can yet be observed in coworking spaces.
In the long term, at any rate, the IW researchers assume that there will be less office space in demand. They estimate that around ten percent less office space will be needed – a figure that could exacerbate the vacancy rate for office properties in the major cities in particular. On the one hand, this could affect recently created office space around metropolitan areas such as Frankfurt or Munich, but on the other hand it could also affect office space in small towns and rural areas, which has been declining for years.