Après deux ans de télétravail à grande échelle, faut-il plus ou moins de bureaux ?

Après deux ans de télétravail à grande échelle, faut-il plus ou moins de bureaux ?

That was two years ago almost to the day. On May 11, 2020, the first confinement linked to the coronavirus ended. In two months, French people who work in an office have been forced to telecommute, with more or less difficulty. Since then, employees continue, or not, to work from home, two or more days a week. Professionals ask themselves: do we need more or fewer offices? and where to place them?

To see more clearly, the association of real estate directors (ADI), which brings together 400 directors and real estate managers of public and private companies for a total heritage of 350 million square meters (1/3 of the total fleet, editor’s note), commissioned a survey from EY in November 2021 of 256 general managers, financial managers, human resources managers and real estate managers.

Greater Paris: office real estate has not said its last word

The rise of remote working is a game-changer

After falling by 10% in 2020, the number of tertiary locations rebounded by 26% in 2021, thus notes EY, which lists 1,386 establishments or extensions of headquarters, research and development (R&D) centers or commercial agencies. Nevertheless: the vast majority (74%) of the actors questioned believe that the rise of teleworking will upset their decisions.

“Within 3 years, employees should spend 2.8 days on their premises and 2.2 outside (teleworking, external appointments…)”, thus declares to La Tribune Frédéric Goupil de Bouillé, vice-president of the Association of real estate directors. “The office is no longer the place where all the tasks are concentrated. With digitization, you can write your articles remotely, send them and correct them”, he adds.

A “too rigid” legal framework

Except that more and more companies want to bring their teams back on site. EY also notes that the very function of the office must be rethought by refocusing on issues of sociability and collaboration. “Phygital meetings are unlivable”, exclaims the vice-president of the ADI. He does not think so well to say: who has never struggled, on the office side or on the telework side, to listen to or interact with one of his colleagues?

The consulting firm also believes that the legal framework for tertiary real estate must evolve. The firm lease 3, 6 and 9 years appears “too rigid” in the eyes of the leaders interviewed. 41% of the panel thus affirms that the increased search for flexibility of leases and modes of occupation will upset their choices of sedentarisation. 51% of them even say that their surfaces could be reduced by up to 30% in the next three years.

The ability of newcomers to work remotely

The observation being made: EY asked the leaders their priorities in the choice of locations. First and foremost, 58% of respondents mentioned their ability to recruit and retain their talents, but also and above all, the ability of newcomers to work remotely. This boom in remote working and flexible working (flex office) also encourages companies to optimize their surfaces, the cost criterion being more than ever decisive.

“The social contract has changed: before the pandemic, we needed one position per person; now, our employees need a space to work, another to telephone and another to have a meeting. When they come to the office, they must be able to take refuge in isolated places,” explains Frédéric Goupil de Bouillé.

“Real estate manufacturers – consultants, builders, developers… – must provide us with well-designed and more flexible spaces”, continues the vice-president of the association of property managers.

The fight against climate change

Another priority criterion: the fight against climate change. Soaring energy prices are prompting real estate managers to integrate environmental objectives into their choices, just as employees are becoming more and more demanding of their companies.

In reality, they no longer have a choice. Entering into force on January 1, 2022, the tertiary decree obliges all owners, lessors and occupants of surfaces of more than 1,000 square meters to reduce their energy consumption on the basis of those of 2010: -40% in 2030, -50% in 2040 and -60% in 2050. Buildings represent 25% of greenhouse gas emissions in France.

A new geographical distribution

Last lesson and not the least: the geographical distribution of the offices of tomorrow. If the establishments in Ile-de-France have made “proof of resilience despite contrasting situations within its main territories”, regional cities “continue to gain ground but their attractiveness must adapt to these new challenges”, writes EY.

In other words, after years of building offices on one side and housing on the other, local authorities will have to stop distinguishing between commercial activity zones (ZAC) and dormitory towns. This is not only an economic imperative, but an ecological necessity. Outside of Greater Paris, work-home journeys remain very carbon-intensive because they are still massively done in private cars, for lack of alternatives in clean public transport.