Southwest Florida’s Return to the Office Space

By Gary Tasman

We will all remember the year 2020 for innumerate reasons. The coronavirus pandemic, historic unemployment levels, a highly divisive election, and civil unrest all shared the headlines in a year none of us will soon forget.

2020 was also the year that many office employees and their employers discovered that they could complete their responsibilities remotely, as COVID-19 protocols limited face-to-face contact and emptied workplaces. Yet as our nation returns to normalcy with improved pandemic procedures, antiviral technologies and a rising vaccination rate, offices are once again filling with employees. Southwest Florida, in fact, is setting the pace for a resurgence in commercial office space.

When the pandemic shut down offices across the nation, millions of jobs were lost either temporarily or permanently. In just two months during the second quarter of 2020, 2.86 million office-using jobs were lost, part of the biggest decline in the history of U.S. payroll employment. Since then, well over half of those jobs have been recovered, and Cushman & Wakefield projects that the office employment market will have fully recovered by July of this year.

The pandemic push to work remotely left many people wondering if traditional offices would ever truly return once the world returned to normalcy. While the work from home trend certainly helped many organizations discover new efficiencies, some employers are rediscovering the purpose of the office. While technology has allowed business leaders to manage teams remotely, smartphones, notebook computers and virtual meetings have not been able to simulate other benefits of working in an office environment.

While many remote employees were productive in their duties, a 2020 Cushman & Wakefield survey found half of U.S. employees who worked from home during the pandemic struggled to feel connected to their company culture, and more than one-third felt like they weren’t learning while working remotely. As a result, the purpose of today’s resurging offices has shifted away from traditional management command and control and towards innovation, knowledge-sharing, and productivity, as well as creating social and cultural connections.

What does this mean for the commercial property market? Office properties are suddenly hot again. While construction ground to a halt during the pandemic, the demand for office space has continued to build. Southwest Florida currently has the hottest office market in the entire state. While Tampa and Miami currently have office vacancy rates over 15%, more than 91% of Southwest Florida offices are filled with tenants—tops in the state. And although office rents have increased in our region, our average rent of $19.34 per square foot is dwarfed by Orlando’s $24.36 and Tampa’s $29.00 average, and completely overshadowed by Miami’s average asking rent of $41.48.

Southwest Florida’s relatively low rent and vacancy rates have created a landlord-friendly market which will continue to boom as the economy improves. With no large-scale speculative office projects under construction in our area, the demand for office space will continue. New businesses are already eyeing our region favorably in terms of cost, and our area’s rapid population growth over the last year will provide more available employees for companies relocating to– or expanding in– Southwest Florida.

While many people and businesses are still struggling to recover from the economic downturn, Southwest Florida’s office sector has been somewhat insulated from the worst of the impact. The commercial office property market is one indication of how our region can thrive in the face of adversity.

Property owners with available office space are in a prime position to take advantage of this recovery. The professionals at Cushman & Wakefield | Commercial Property Southwest Florida are available to help you understand the value of your office property and how you can position it for sale or lease in this exciting market. Contact us at info@cpswfl.com&lt, call 239-489-3600 or contact-us.

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