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The Dilemma of Unused Office Space

What should we do with office buildings we no longer use?

Empty Office Building - Photo by Razlan Hanafiah on Unsplash

COVID-19 has left the world changed with traditional business evolving rapidly to working from home.

Large organisations, corporates, and enterprises which still hold thousands of seats in office buildings around the globe are starting to realise they no longer need the space they once occupied and now face the dilemma of what to do with unused offices.

Back in April when we all started to navigate the waters of global quarantine I wrote an article where I made the following prediction:

We may find in the future large companies with thousands of employees where the only physical footprint will be a series of racks in a data centre.

How will we work post COVID-19? – Tim King

Fast forward several months and with little surprise global tech giants Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, & Atlassian are beginning to lead the way to a more permanent state of freeing their staff to continue working from home.

But with companies moving way from offices, what will become of the buildings the world once commuted to on a daily basis?

Shared Co-working Spaces

black flat screen computer monitor on brown wooden table - Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Unoccupied or low-occupancy building spaces that once housed large companies have an abundance of resources which much smaller businesses and freelancers can put to good use.

Aircon, WiFi, printers, tea stations, phones, secure access, meeting rooms, mail handling, business location, and most of all desk space. Everything a small business needs to operate.

Some even might offer private office spaces, access to a gym or pool, a dedicated barista, standing desks, and more.

With buildings currently sitting empty, an industrious building or property manager could rapidly reinvent the offices they manage into a series of attractive co-working spaces with minimal effort.

Residential Precincts

people inside high-rise building with concrete wall - Photo by dylan nolte on Unsplash

One of the common issues cities have is a lack of affordable residential opportunities in the heart of business centres. This usually forces workers to live in distant suburbs and commute from hours away, often in the early morning or late evening, just to work their nine to five.

With people now working from home it makes sense to rezone commercial office buildings and convert them into apartments, both as a good use of space and as a great way for companies to earn additional income from alternative sources.

Of course there is the initial outlay for companies to consider when converting spaces into residential dwellings, but if done well the revenue benefits could well outweigh any of the downsides.

Urban Indoor Agriculture

Hydroponic Farming

A popular trend for a while now, traditional tech companies in Asia like Toshiba have turned older clean rooms and labs where they’d once made old technology into indoor farms.

Along with tech giants, there are many agriculture companies spanning the globe such as Plenty, AeroFarms, Bowery Farming, & InFarm which all take advantage of new technologies and farming techniques to transform urban spaces into food-producing power houses.

Maximising yield, improving flavour, and avoiding pesticides and genetically modified crops are what these companies specialise in. Include that the foods are grown locally and fully traceable makes this solution to be one of the best solutions for unused offices.

With our global population on the rise, this is a fantastic way to renew buildings while creating jobs and feeding our population at the same time.

Looking to the Future

No matter the path companies and office building owners take, there are some great uses we should be considering for all the unused space.

Whether it be to enhance our communities through urban indoor farming, supporting new enterprise by developing amazing co-working spaces, or turning buildings into residential precincts the future is bright for our abandoned offices.

For now, if you’re the owner or manager of a large buildings or office spaces, what steps have your taken to reimagine your spaces?

By Tim King

Tim is a freelance writer, creative thinker, and futurist living in Central Victoria, Australia. He's been designing and developing digital content online for over a decade and loves digging into the big topics that shape our world, applying his own brand of thought along the way.

You'll usually find him writing content and thinking far too hard about the future, often with a good glass of red in hand.