When the COVID-19 outbreak erupted back in early 2020, many employees were told to pack up their desks and start working remotely to ride out that initial wave of infections. Little did we know that two years later, remote work would still be going strong.
But that may be changing. After a massive surge in COVID-19 cases fueled by the omicron variant, case numbers are finally looking more manageable on a national level. Furthermore, the CDC has changed its guidance regarding COVID-19, and part of that change includes finding ways to coexist with the virus. That means most people no longer have to mask up in public and pandemic-related restrictions can finally ease.
This shift has also prompted more employers to start calling workers back to the office. In fact, in recent weeks, a number of big-name tech companies have made firm plans for workers to return to the office by late March or April.
That may not be the best news for tech employees. After two solid years of remote work, many may have gotten used to their at-home arrangements. And at a time when gas prices are soaring, the idea of having to pay to commute may not sit well at all.
But from an office REIT (real estate investment trust) perspective, this change is a very positive one. And it may be just the thing to give real estate investors hope.
A boon to office REITs
The prevalence of remote work has caused many office REITs to take a hit since the start of the pandemic. Furthermore, many investors have, for months on end, maintained the fear that remote work will persist even once the pandemic comes to an end and the idea of working in an office setting becomes safer.
But now, it looks like companies are holding firm on their plans to bring workers back in person. Apple, for example, wants employees to work from the office at least one day a week starting on April 11. That requirement will then increase to three days a week starting April 23.
Meanwhile, Microsoft wants workers to move to a hybrid arrangement by March 28. From there, they’ll split their time between remote work and being in the office in accordance with the agreements they arrange with their managers.
Now if there’s one industry that should, in theory, lend easily to remote work, it’s tech. And so the fact that a number of major tech companies are insisting on in-person work is a good sign for office REIT investors.
Will in-person work ever be the same?
In light of the events of the past two years, it’s fair to say that we might never see a full-fledged return to in-person work. That’s because companies have learned to be more flexible in the wake of the pandemic, and they’ve also seen firsthand that remote work arrangements don’t always lead to diminished productivity.
But it’s also clear that offices are not about to become obsolete. And so office REIT investors can, and should, take comfort in the fact that buildings should soon be filling up at a decent pace.