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Have companies changed how they perceive their offices?


Throughout the Covid-19 health crisis and the long weeks of lockdown, our usual ways of working were turned inside out. New routines have emerged in order to better adapt to remote working, an unfamiliar practice for some employees or organisations.

Since May, European workers have been gradually making their way back to the office, in accordance with the safety measures set out by the government and their companies. Even though office spaces today have already been transformed in order to slow down the spread of the virus, what will they look like in the coming years? Will this exceptional period be the building block for a new real estate strategy for occupiers? In order to answer these questions BNP Paribas Real Estate launched a one-off enquiry of its clients, prospects and office occupiers faced with the Covid-19 crisis. Learn about the initial findings of this study

Will the criteria for office buildings change?

The health crisis that we have been experiencing for many months is going to radically shift the boundaries that we knew before. Thanks to the different surveys conducted by BNP Paribas Real Estate we have observed that there has been a marked shift in employees’ desire to go back to basics. This trend could completely transform certain sectors such as consumption, housing and work. Considering these parameters, should companies redesign the layout of their office spaces? More than ever, adaptation is key in responding to the challenges brought about by the crisis, and by the employee’s new aspirations.

Following on from this, at the end of this crisis, what will the most important parameters be for clients when deciding what to do with their premises? In order to learn more, 157 of BNP Paribas Real Estate’s occupiers, clients and prospects, took part in a survey over the month of May. 92% say that health and safety is an important factor, with well-being coming a close second. The location, real estate costs and the surface area of office buildings are also championed.  On the other hand, the length of the lease and the existence of co-working spaces or business centres are not seen as a priority by the companies that were surveyed.

How will the offices of tomorrow look?

In order to envisage what work spaces will look like in the future and what the impacts of Covid-19 will be, the question remains: what impact will the crisis have on the way you approach buildings? In the survey conducted by BNP Paribas Real Estate, two issues very clearly rise to the surface: adapt the building for new uses (80% of those surveyed were in agreement) and prioritise a flexible office system (64%). In regards to the reduction of the occupied surface area, the move towards a shorter-term lease or more offices being shut down, or on the other hand more open and collaborative offices, the opinions are more divided. 52% of participants say that they don’t want to reduce the surface area of buildings and 54% want to benefit from shorter-length leases. Most of the participants agreed that revisiting the amount of square metres per staff member rule, which is currently in place, is not an option. For reference the “Afnor nf x 35-102” norm recommends a minimum work space of 10m²per person, whether the office is individual or open-plan, and 15m² when the office is open-plan and noisy. 

In terms of industrial premises occupiers, 49% of them believe that the crisis will see production capacities moving back to France. 66% of them want to rethink their real estate strategy document, and 78% want to revise their supply chain so that they never have to go through the logistical nightmares experienced at the beginning of the lockdown again. 

Finally, 71% of the occupiers with commercial premises, don’t think that there will be a reduction in the number of retail outlets.

What is the company’s role in this?

What are the main factors that motivate employees to come back to work at the office? 54% of the participants mentioned the lack of contact and interaction with their colleagues. A cornerstone of social contact, the company headquarters plays a crucial part in this, especially when we are referring to a feeling of belonging. However, the lockdown weeks confirm the benefits of remote working in terms of employees’ well-being. 78% of companies surveyed are planning to develop or consolidate remote working in the future. While the health crisis has highlighted the need for flexibility at work, is it also going influence how companies work in the future? Sylvain Hasse, Head of Corporate Services at BNP Paribas Real Estate said, “If we work two to three days a week from our homes, we will see lots of new hybrid spaces popping up, the parameters of which have yet to be invented. We’re not just talking about residential spaces, or offices, or hotels, but a mixture of all of these, third places in general. The office building – and this is even more true for headquarters – is in a way the flagship of the company, it’s a place where colleagues, service providers, clients, student apprentices, interns and new recruits can meet. It’s a place that attracts talent and investors; bursting with opportunity. This doesn’t necessarily mean that offices will be smaller, but it does mean that they will be more optimised.”


The office building – and this is even more true for headquarters – is in a way the flagship of the company, it’s a place where colleagues, service providers, clients, student apprentices, interns and new recruits can meet. It’s a place that attracts talent and investors; bursting with opportunity.

Sylvain Hasse
Head of Corporate Services at BNP Paribas Real Estate


This particular study was carried out by BNP Paribas Real Estate with a sample of 1557 occupiers during the period of the 12th to the 26th of May 2020. These companies, business premises occupiers were mostly asked about the layout of their offices, their real estate projects and their relationships with landlords and property managers. Out of the 157 people who took the online questionnaire, 45 were CEOs/Directors, 30 were managers, 20 were Building Managers and 15 were Administrative and Financial Directors. The rest were communication directors, Logistics Directors, General Service Managers, Human Resources managers, Purchasing Directors, Consultants, Commercial/Director Assistants and some Asset Managers.