Will we ever return to the office? The question has been asked at length throughout the pandemic. Just when we thought a return to normalcy was on the horizon, a new COVID variant popped up.  

But commercial offices are welcoming tenants back to buildings. And here are three telltale signs signaling the return to office life. 

1. The Return to Office After Omicron

The Omicron coronavirus variant may have been a minor setback for the return to office life. However, many companies are now requesting employees come back. It’s being dubbed The Great Return. 

And many companies have publicly announced their return to office plans. They include: 

Perhaps Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and Alphabet, said it best in his recent blog: “It might seem counterintuitive to step up our investment in physical offices even as we embrace more flexibility in how we work. Yet we believe it’s more important than ever to invest in our campuses and that doing so will make for better products, a greater quality of life for our employees, and stronger communities.”

2. Office Occupancy Continues to Climb

U.S. office workers are back at the office at the highest rate since March 2020, according to the latest Kastle Systems Back to Work Barometer. The national barometer measures occupancy in more than 2,600 buildings in 10 major metro office markets nationwide.  

Office occupancy stood at 42% of pre-pandemic levels for the week of March 30. The last time it was nearly so high was in December 2021, just before the Omicron variant surge caused occupancies to spiral downward.

3. Owners Up the Ante to Attract High-Quality Tenants

As building owners look to attract new tenants, their focus has shifted to those considered to be high-quality tenants. That has commercial real estate owners turning to sustainability as a selling point. It’s no secret why. More sustainable buildings attract higher-quality tenants and allow for higher rents, up to 10% more. 

Tenant experience has become a top priority more than ever. Employee health and wellness continues to drive tenant demands. That’s why some groups are leaning into certifications such as Fitwel and LEED. They’re also ensuring their buildings are safe—from the front to the back. In fact, some tenants are flocking to single-story buildings as they look for safer options that allow them to control their own HVAC systems 

Are Your Buildings Ready for the Great Return to Office? 

Here are three tips to make sure your buildings are prepared for a return to office: 

  1. Respond to tenant requests quickly: Research shows most property managers and engineers aren’t doing an excellent job at responding to tenants quickly. Nearly 50% of survey respondents in The State of Commercial Real Estate Building Operations for 2022 report said the most common tenant request was for faster responses to work orders/maintenance needs. Property teams should take a systematic approach to ensuring faster response times. Assuming you want to reduce turnover and help entice tenants back, of course.
  2. Make office safety a top priority: The pandemic has understandably raised the bar of office safety among tenants. “Enhanced health and safety” was the second most common tenant request mentioned in the report. And 45% of respondents cited this as the request they hear most often.
  3. Upgrade tenant amenities: Upgrades to tenant amenities was another common request for 39% of respondents. Property teams should focus on providing spaces that improve collaboration and overall on-site experience. HVAC requests, mostly around temperature levels, were also cited as a common write-in example.


The Most Common Tenant Requests

Technology is Your Biggest Ally 

The message from tenants is clear. Tenants want safe spaces for their employees. That means building owners and operators who make health and safety top priorities will have the competitive advantage in attracting high-quality tenants. Consider this: 46% of building owners leased properties with healthy building certifications faster than other properties. 

Technology is helping commercial real estate owners and operators prepare for The Great Return. Investments in commercial real estate technology can help you: 

  • make data-driven decisions;  
  • increase net operating income;  
  • accelerate sustainability initiatives; and   
  • improve the tenant experience. 

Are you interested in learning more about how you can prepare for a return to office and attract high-quality tenants? Reach out to our experts who can help set you up for success!