Business owners in the market for office space in Houston should have no problem finding what they are looking for. Currently, Houston has a vacancy rate of 23% for office space. In addition to the office space that is available right now, there are roughly 3.5 million square feet of office space currently under construction. The large number of available office units means employers are in luck, whether they are opening a business for the first time or if they want to change the location of their office or the type of space they use.
Houston employers pushing for employees to head back to the office
As coronavirus infection rates continue to decrease nationwide, an increasing number of employers are requiring employees to come back to work in the office. While the COVID-19 pandemic showed that many jobs can be performed remotely, some employers feel that working from home is not as good for business as working in the office. Many of these companies are now pushing for workers to come back to the office.
According to the Harvard Business Review, productivity fell at many companies during the pandemic. For most companies, the number of virtual meetings and the total amount of time spent in meetings increased, although the average meeting length decreased. Productive time at most business fell by 2 to 3%. Businesses who are eager to get back to pre-pandemic productivity want their employees back in the office.
Health precautions change office space needs
As workers return to the office, employers may need to change how their office space is set up to accommodate new health and wellness guidelines. Employers looking for office space for lease may consider some of these factors:
- Look for larger office space for lease that allows for some degree of social distancing between employees.
- If budget constraints prevent employers from leasing a larger office space, bring key employees back to the office while allowing others to work from home.
- If many employees can work from home, consider leasing a smaller office space for essential employees only.
- Reconsider the office footprint in terms of the business’s new needs. Should more space be devoted to collaborative space or to individual offices or cubicles? Should conference rooms be set up to accommodate videoconferencing?
- Make common areas, such as coffee areas and bathrooms, safe. Some clean options include hands-free soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers, and trash receptacles.
- Invest in enhanced daily cleaning, particularly of high-traffic areas, to prevent the spread of germs.
Landlords must respond to tenant needs for office space for lease
Commercial real estate owners must quickly respond to the new demands that the pandemic has brought on. With so much commercial real estate available in Houston right now, tenants can be picky and will not sign a lease for office space unless it meets all of their needs. Here are some of the factors tenants looking office space want:
- Shorter lease terms: While commercial leases traditionally ran for five years or more, many businesses owners are hesitant to sign such a long lease now. They may have already been burned during the pandemic by paying for a long-term lease while their employees worked from home. Commercial real estate owners who offer shorter lease terms may find it easier to find tenants right now.
- Flex space: Many tenants, especially tenants running small-to-mid-sized businesses, are interested in flex space, which often includes smaller suites with leases ranging from one month to three years. Landlords often fully furnish flex spaces so that the office space is move-in ready.
- Upgraded technology: Business owners looking for office space for lease have high standards when it comes to digital access and data security. When they invest in technology upgrades, commercial real estate owners should consider what tenants want today as well as what they will need in the next five to ten years.
- Upgraded HVAC systems: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of healthy airflow. Commercial HVAC units should be upgraded every ten years anyway, but now is a great time for landlords to upgrade HVAC systems of any age. Many tenants prefer to lease office space with good air filtration and exchange. Commercial real estate owners should ensure that their system’s economizers work properly, have filters with a minimum MERV-13 rating or higher, and exchange the air three or more times per hour. An HVAC professional can help assess and upgrade current systems.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed Houston’s commercial real estate market. Property owners must respond to these changes to attract and keep tenants looking for office space for lease. Employers must address new health guidelines to keep their employees healthy and comfortable. Flexibility is key right now as landlords and tenants adjust to the post-pandemic work environment.
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