Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.
Edit

Office space in flux as 'digital nomads' become the norm

  • 0
Union Square

A banner and signs can be seen on the side of the Union Square Properties building on Broad Street in Glens Falls. Mannix Marketing decided to close its office in the building after only one employee opted to return to in-office work following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sara Mannix of Mannix Marketing in Glens Falls dreamed of becoming a “digital nomad,” a term for those who work remotely instead of in an office setting.

That was five years ago, when she learned about the concept at a conference.

But her staff wasn’t ready.

“None of my employees wanted to be remote,” she said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced employees to work remotely, they found that they liked the arrangement, after all.

After the height of the pandemic, Mannix offered employees the option of continuing to work remotely or to return to the office.

Only one employee returned to the office.

“Everyone thought they would hate it, but they loved it,” said Mannix, the internet marketing company’s founder and chief executive officer.

So Mannix made the decision to close the office and take the company completely remote.

She arranged with Tri-County United Way to hold a day when nonprofit agencies could come in and take whatever office furniture they wanted for free.

And she’s attempting to sublet the space on the upper floors of the Union Square building on Broad Street until the lease runs out in April.

Office space has had the biggest impact of any commercial real estate sector due to the COVID-19 pandemic, said Mark Levack, a commercial real estate broker in Glens Falls.

For every company that is adding office space, there are 10 companies that are using less or no office space, he said.

Having a physical office space used to be a necessary status to attract clients, but the culture has changed, said Sean Magee, a managing partner in Trampoline Design, an 18-year-old downtown Glens Falls advertising and graphic design firm.

“It was so much about that space,” he said. “I don’t see it going back to where it was.”

Working remotely also helps with employee recruitment and retention, he said.

The firm has a summer intern working remotely from Washington state.

An employee who moved to northern Vermont when his wife took a job there was able to stay on with Trampoline Design, working remotely.

“It’s different, but it’s working,” Magee said.

The firm uses a computer software program called “base camp” to work collaboratively from different remote locations.

Trampoline Design still leases a small office space at Empire Theatre Plaza on South Street, where it houses a video production studio and computer server.

But the firm turned over most of its office space to EDC Warren County, which relocated its offices from the Monument Square office tower on Glen Street.

In some respects, the trend has actually benefited the local real estate market because more companies are looking for the size of office space commonly available in downtown Glens Falls, said developer Peter Hoffman.

“Somebody that needed 20,000 square feet a few years ago, now they need 10,000 square feet, and we get them,” he said.

Hoffman said that virtually all of the office space in buildings he owns in Glens Falls and Queensbury is leased.

Working remotely enables employees to better balance their time between work and family than working in a conventional office setting, Mannix said.

It is especially suitable for creative firms, like her own, in which employees tend to be introverts, she said.

Communication, she said, now occurs more through email that verbal conversation.

Giving up the office means she will no longer pay rent, once the lease runs out, but that won’t necessarily show up in the bottom line, Mannix said, because she will be spending more on work retreats and social events in order to maintain a team spirit.

“You don’t take those funds and pocket it, you invest it in the culture,” she said.

Not all remote workers like to work from home, said Christy Alexander, founder of WorkSmart Coworking & Meeting Space at 237 Glen St., the former TD Bank building long known informally as “the white bank.”

The business, established in 2018, provides shared work space, conference rooms and private offices, available by the day, several days, or on a long-term basis.

“The problem is that working from home can be really hard. Home is full of distractions that get in the way of productivity,” Alexander said. “And with no clear lines separating work and home, employees can’t leave work behind and enjoy family time the way they should.”

Shared work spaces also provide sociability.

“Customers tell us that they miss in-person connection and the conversations that happen around the watercooler,” she said. “They also need a place to work away from the home, but they want to work where they choose to live — not live where their work happens to be.”

The trend toward remote working has contributed to an “urban flight” boom in the local residential housing market, as remote workers can work for urban firms but live anywhere, said Levack, the real estate broker.

There have been some local firms leasing more office space.

SCI, an information technology firm, recently relocating from Queensbury to larger space at Broad Street Plaza in Glens Falls, Levack said.

0 Comments
0
0
0
0
0

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.

Topics

News Alerts

Breaking News