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As the nation emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, some employers have announced they will make remote work a permanent arrangement for their employees, while others are finding ways to incentivize their workers to return to the office as soon as possible. As managing director of brokerage for JLL’s Milwaukee office, David Pudlosky represents office users, meaning he has a firsthand account of how companies have weathered the pandemic and how they’re thinking about their office environments moving forward. BizTimes reporter Alex Zank recently caught up with Pudlosky to discuss what’s happening in the office real estate market and JLL’s new effort to help companies implement a hybrid work strategy in a post-pandemic world.
What has the Milwaukee office real estate market been like in recent months?
“Probably the last five to six months, we have definitely experienced an uptick in just overall curiosity – my business in particular. I’m a tenant rep broker on the office side, so all I do is represent tenants and occupiers of space. Our activity has been relatively consistent throughout this whole pandemic because occupiers of space have been looking to myself, my team and JLL to provide guidance as to how do we work remote and how do we come back to the office. So, we’ve been relatively consistent, but I would say the last five or six months, it feels like activity has picked up and curiosity has elevated. People are really excited and anxious to get back to the office and understand how the workplace is going to look and feel.”
What are some recent indicators that things are improving?
“My team and I, we’re in a very unique position representing the occupiers, so we’re sort of in the boardroom, if you will. We’re on the strategy side of the transaction. … My team and I have access pretty early to what leaders are thinking. My optimism comes from the fact that these conversations are now happening with more of our clients (and) more of our prospects. We are having more in-person meetings, which I think shows you that people are more comfortable now getting back to the office, having in-person meetings. And the frequency of these meetings has increased where us being so early on the strategy side, leaders are now saying to us, ‘OK, JLL, let’s have a meeting to talk about our re-entry.’”
What have office users been talking about in recent months?
“I think the emphasis on space utilization and not having dead space, if you will, is becoming much more critical. I also think, everyone talks about amenities, and they talk about amenities from fitness centers, conference rooms (and) training facilities. What does the building have to offer? And I think the traditional amenities are still part of that combination, but I’ve had more conversations with real estate leaders about HVAC systems, operable windows, rooftop outdoor access. I think the amenities are being elevated. I think the visibility into really understanding their space utilization is part of the conversation.
“The buzzword is flexibility, who’s coming into the office, how often are they coming into the office, are they in a private office, are they in a workstation, is there hoteling? The flexibility piece is part of the combination, and the theme across the board, most real estate decision-makers are saying they want most of their employees in the office most of the time.”
What will the future of office space look like when thinking about the impact of COVID-19?
“I think you’re going to see a massaging of what we had before, just in different break outs. What I mean by that is, we had individual spaces before, we are going to have individual spaces going forward. I just think there’s going to be less of it. I think the collaboration space will increase, because I think what you’ll see is when people are in the office, they’re in the office for a specific reason, which is probably tied a lot to culture and collaboration. So, I think you’ll see spaces that are designed to bring people into the office to work together.”
JLL recently launched an offering (Experience / Anywhere) to help companies simplify their hybrid work strategies. How does that help companies in a world affected by the pandemic?
“I think JLL’s place in all of this is to help companies understand where they are most productive and efficient to work. Sometimes it’s in the office, and sometimes it’s not. And we’re making sure we’re allowing the real estate decision makers to give the companies the tools and resources, and give them the data and the information, so they can make informed decisions on how people can be more nimble in a post-COVID world.” ϖ