In A Post-Pandemic Future, Coworking May Be Multifamily's Newest Amenity
A surge in remote work after the coronavirus pandemic would also change residents' needs in an apartment community, multifamily experts say.
By the end of March, nearly two-thirds of knowledge workers were working remotely, according to an estimate from software company Netskope. A Colliers survey of people around the globe conducted around the same time found 82% of employees hope to work from home at least once a week after the pandemic.
This move toward remote work could warrant myriad changes to existing and future apartment communities, one of which was already underway.
In the last few years, coworking space has gradually become an amenity of choice for many multifamily developers, representing a trend that could accelerate as a result of more remote work, according to Universe Holdings Chairman and CEO Henry Manoucheri.
Universe Holdings already offers coworking space in a few of its many communities scattered around the LA area and will look closely at adding more in the future, Manoucheri said.
Crescent Communities Managing Director Ben Krasnow said a number of Crescent projects also include coworking space, in some cases partnering with coffee company Land of a Thousand Hills Coffee to operate the spaces, and that there are more to come.
“I think we’ll continue to see the expansion of coworking spaces within multifamily projects, said Krasnow, who oversees Crescent's multifamily business in the Southwest.
"I think we’ll see the size of coworking spaces likely increase within projects, and the design will be catered more to, as I call it, the digital nomads, or people who are able to work remotely digitally and are not bound by any specific location,” he said.
How many new remote workers will be in place post-pandemic remains to be seen, but Crescent will continue refining its approach to coworking and other amenity spaces going forward, Krasnow said. Making sure you have premium, fiber-backed internet for remote work throughout a building, not just in coworking or amenity spaces, will become more important, he said.
Ken Busch, senior vice president of residential development for Sares Regis Group of Northern California, said SRGNC is bringing phone booth space into an upcoming 200-unit project of theirs in South San Francisco.
“You see them in some hotels, where the opportunity is to get a little more privacy. That’s something that we think is going to be accepted,” Busch said.
Aside from coworking space, Manoucheri said Universe will look to change units themselves, likely making them bigger. He said a trend toward smaller units is more likely to reverse than continue.
“As we renovate our units and find properties we want to buy, we want to be very cognizant of creating an office or nice comfortable workspace inside their units," he said.
Hord Coplan Macht principal Chris Harvey said he doesn't see units getting bigger, just perhaps more efficient in their layouts to more easily allow for remote work. Closet space or extra space created by stacking in-unit washers and dryers can make room for a work area niche off a bedroom or hallway and can justify a rent upcharge, he said.
“Normally, we haven’t been doing this. It’s something a little bit more in the past we did," Harvey said. "But I could see that coming back, a place where you could have your laptop so work is not just sitting there on the kitchen table or on the dining room table.”
Beyond indoor workspace options, Harvey said a property's outdoor amenities will rise in significance if people are without daily trips to an office and the social interaction that experience brings. Designs HCM has done for outdoor yoga areas or cross-training areas might become more common, he said.
"Social connection is going to be important, as much as we’re talking about all these ways to isolate in your room," Harvey said.
Harvey also said designing for wellness will continue to become more important. For instance, by lighting stair towers and making them more appealing, HCM and developer High Street Residential encouraged their use instead of elevators in a Pittsburgh project, he said.
“Simple things like that can change the way people use the building for the better," Harvey said.