Previously, companies had little incentive to spend on such services, according to Rebecca Humphrey, executive vice president at Savills and head of the Workplace Practice Group. “A client was like, ‘I don’t want to pay for this, I just want this deal done,’” she said. “The pandemic has changed that.”
His colleague from Savills, Mr Lipson, said he sees possible changes even for some of the most ardent traditionalists, like the white shoe law firms in Washington. “The main partners went home last March thinking ‘my paper, I can’t do without my paper, and I can’t do without my assistant right in front of my desk,’ he said. “Then they billed the same number of hours the next week and was like, ‘Huh, did that go better than I thought?'”
As businesses anticipate changes and their reactions, a new role that real estate companies could play is that of the scapegoat.
For companies with employees reluctant to return to the office, the consultants’ seal of approval can provide credibility – and a reason to keep office workers coming back.
“We’re very helpful in playing the bad guy,” Ms. Humphrey said, noting that a lot of the business was related to checking office plans and helping companies communicate changes or bring people back. “It helps in the messaging to say ‘we brought in the guys from the outside’.”
What is an office for?
Sixteen stories higher in a quiet tower in Midtown Manhattan, Joseph J. Sitt jumped to his feet and pointed to a comforting TV headline: Remote work would soon end for New York government employees. He had waved for a signal like this. “Yes he is is not going to have workers in the office, ”he said,“ who is it? “
Mr Sitt, chief executive of Thor Equities, reopened his own workplace last July, unveiling what he called a ‘Covid boardroom,’ with chairs spaced a shade more generously. (“I guess I should call it the socially distant conference room,” he corrected himself.) He was counting on a “violent reopening.”