COLUMBUS, Ohio — Central Ohio is making strides in recovering from the COVID-19 Pandemic.
More and more events and businesses are opening up. While the recovery begins, this pandemic is leaving behind scars at a time when businesses prepare for a new way of operating. For one industry, it may not be business as usual.
Over the past year, the number of people working in offices in downtown Columbus has dwindled and there is less traffic in the streets. Many businesses have sent people home to work remotely as part of their efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Now, a year later and working remotely has become normal. Some businesses are considering having their employees "not" come into the office at all even when it’s safe.
That leaves the question: Do businesses need to downsize office space?
"Cost savings has been part of the conversation we've had with clients," said Damla Gerhart, one of the senior managing directors at CBRE. This is a firm that deals with commercial real estate including in Columbus.
Corporations are starting to take a second look at their operations with some realizing that it just might be cheaper to downsize and keep their workers working remotely from home.
"We think this will likely result in somewhat of a reduced real estate footprint but the outcomes will vary by company and location," Gerhart said.
Itzhak Ben-Davis agrees. "The data shows there's an uptick in vacancies. You can see it driving around...less traffic".
Ben-Davis, a professor at The Ohio State University College of Business, said it makes good sense for companies to downsize and save money now that we've learned to work remotely successfully.
Gerhart said some businesses are signing short-term leases to buy themselves more time to consider downsizing.
If companies decide to downsize it could become a win-win for employees who want to work from home and for businesses who are looking to save money by cutting down on office space.
There is a downside to downsizing that would include economic impacts to corporate real estate businesses, like CBRE. If downsizing becomes a trend, it could also cost the city of Columbus millions of dollars in taxes spent by corporations who hold (or used to hold) space in downtown buildings.