Building better workplaces to compete with working remotely

Posted On November 6, 2022

Much of America’s workforce sent home to either wait it out or work remotely during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of those asked to work from home apparently liked it, since nearly 60 percent of workers who say their jobs can be done from home are still working remotely, according to a Pew Research Center study.

What does that mean for traditional workplaces? And for the buildings in which they’re housed?

It’s a question faced daily by our guest in the latest episode of “What’s Working with Cam Marston.” James Lomax is Vice President of Asset Management and Leasing for Corporate Office Properties Trust (COPT) which manages commercial properties in several cities, including Redstone Gateway in Huntsville.

Lomax likened business districts during COVID-19 to the zombie apocalypse, but said office spaces in Alabama have rebounded better than in other areas.

“Alabama is actually ahead of the curve when it comes to returning people to the office,” Lomax said, “and part of that is we’re a more suburban market.”

Workers have been more reluctant to return to business districts in larger cities, he said, largely because of the commute. Surveying their own tenants, however, COPT found most found an in-person workplace was vital for three reasons:

  • Collaboration
  • Culture
  • Quality control

Many businesses have found a hybrid model beneficial, as it allows flexibility with maternity, childcare and other situations.

Lomax said many commercial spaces are moving away from “cubicle farms” and back to private offices, but with more common areas and huddle spaces. Amenities such as fitness centers and outdoor spaces are also increasingly important.

“What COVID, I really feel like, did is reset people’s expectations in what a work environment should be like,” Lomax said.

In this episode, we also spoke with Stacy Wellborn and Johnny Gwin, who co-own the Container Yard co-working space in Mobile. Co-working spaces have become popular for people and businesses who want the amenities of a traditional workplace setting without the overhead of their own office.

Wellborn and Gwin say the ultimate goal of a co-working space is to create a sense of community, even among people from different types of businesses.

“I always say a co-working space is not a place to work, it’s a way to work,” Gwin said. “It’s also a way to be in a group of people to do networking while you’re doing your job.”

Categories: Blog, Podcast, What's Working with Cam Marston, Work, Workplace