Khadar Shaikh
During the pandemic, some offices in Dubai were converted as part of efforts to contain the spread. But these days, office tenants are more into reviewing their need for space and how it matches up with their expenses. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: Who would have thought it? Millennials (the under 35’s) are far more likely to miss the office environment than their older colleagues, according to survey of workplace trends brought on by the pandemic.

Surprising because millennials tend to be far more clued on about tech and connectivity, and could easily slip into Zoom mode when virtual meetings come calling. But such tech skills come with limits – 65 per cent of millennials in the survey cite “poor” home-office environments and missing support from their managers.

In fact, cutting across age groups, the poll found that 58 per cent miss being in office and 44 per cent rued the lack of human interaction.

But there is no denying that remote work is not going anywhere, according to JLL, the real estate consultancy that did the survey. It polled 3,000 employees working in multinationals after the pandemic struck.

“Our survey showed that while many settled into working from home, key components of office life were missing, impacting productivity: socialization, face to face collaboration and informal communications,” said Flore Pradère, Director of Research for JLL. “The office is essential to boost the feeling of belonging to a community.”

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Subtle changes locally

In the UAE, the aftermath of the COVID-19 outbreak has not resulted in a rush by office tenants to downsize or exit altogether. But changes are very much there – and at the centre of this is a shift away from the need for consolidating everything under a “headquarters”.

“While in some instances space requirements might be reducing, corporates are looking at the “flex-space” market or taking space in co-working centres where employees of specific roles and functions can work from,” said Thierry Delvaux, CEO of JLL MEA.

“So again, it's less about how much space they're taking, but more about this space no longer being consolidated in one location, which is the HQ.”

Cutting down on space

Depending on the business and the industry, office tenants in the UAE have been telling their landlords to reduce their lease period… and even the size of their floor areas. “Where landlords have been accommodative and understanding, we have seen them offer more attractive lease terms,” said Delvaux. “However, when it comes to reduction in space requirements this has been limited to no more than 10-15 per cent in the medium-term.

“In other instances, some corporates are not necessarily looking to either expand or contract, but rather to upgrade to better quality space, especially where landlords are offering attractive lease terms.”