Despite 2020 being a year that hardly anyone could have predicted, as humans we just can’t help ourselves from trying to figure out what will happen next.

This applies to the commercial real estate industry which had an, em, interesting year, as large swathes of professionals have worked from home for months at a time, leaving offices empty. As a result, there are many thoughts on what this seismic shift might mean for the future of workplace.

We’ve rounded up predictions for the forthcoming year to figure out the consensus (as well as the disagreements!) on what will happen next

A disclaimer: most of these predictions are based on some pretty big assumptions that life will return to “normal” at some point this year. So remember, all of these comes with a pretty big “maybe” attached.

Offices aren’t going anywhere...

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most in the industry are pretty invested in offices continuing to be a thing. There seems to be widespread agreement that the office isn’t dead. Savills anticipates that offices in central business districts will remain the first choice for companies - and for investors.

Cushman & Wakefield points out that some companies may go completely remote, tempted by the opportunity to recruit the best talent. However, in order to retain and manage those employees they will need to put more investment into how they support them.

...but collaborative space is key

Another point of widespread agreement is that the purpose of office space will change. As the Financial Times puts it, “Simply providing banks of desks for people to answer phones and send emails feels increasingly out of date.”

Knight Frank predicts that offices will remain important as places for people to come together, with an emphasis on office experience and communal spaces. Although, as Cushman & Wakefield reminds us, it might be awhile before we start to see these changes in design since physical changes will take some time to implement.

Hybrid is the future

Although the office isn’t going to disappear, the transition to remote work will not be completely rolled back. Most expect that there will be a mixture of remote work and in-office work, aka hybrid work.

UBS believes that this will be particularly important for younger workers who will need to come into the office to develop networks and learn from colleagues.

This will also have an impact on design. CBRE foresees that workplaces will continue to move towards shared rather than private space (for example, hotdesking) to make hybrid working more viable, despite the safety concerns around COVID.

Or is it?

Cushman & Wakefield’s investor focus group sounds a note of cautious dissent. They say that although surveys currently indicate that employees want to spend at least half of their time working remotely, this may change as those that continue to work remotely may feel they are missing out on office culture and opportunities to advance their career.

Companies will get rid of office space

Since employees are expected to work remotely some of the time, companies will start jettisoning office space. Instant Offices predicts that up to 50% of the workforce might work remotely, either from home or flexible space.

The Financial Times is thinking along similar lines and believes that companies may get rid of as much as 40% of their office space. It highlights that the amount of “grey space” (space that isn’t technically for rent but lies unoccupied and available) has already risen in London by more than most other European cities.

Demand will increase for flexible space

At the same time, companies will turn to flexible space, since it allows them to scale office space up and down with limited commitment. Knight Frank predicts that almost half of businesses expect to increase the amount of flexible space in their portfolio, while JLL believes that 30% of office space will be flexible by 2030.

Coworking insights envisages that as a result, more landlords will invest in coworking, while Instant Offices speculates that this widespread adoption of flexible workspace may cause demand to outstrip supply.

Regional space will benefit

This isn’t just limited to the London market. The Financial Times anticipates that good quality regional offices will benefit as the hub and spoke model becomes more popular. Meanwhile Colliers also foresees an increase in regional demand, thanks to government moves and competition for quality space in london.

Of course, these are projections based on the current trends but it’s possible that everything may shift again. After all, if 2020 has taught us anything it’s that there are some things you just can’t predict.

What will the workplace of 2021 look like in your opinion? Let us know on Twitter.