Survey: Businesses Committed to Physical Office Space, But Maybe Not as Much

Despite a largely successful move to remote work over the past year, most companies are still planning to stick with their brick-and-mortar offices for the time being, according to a recent survey of CFOs, controllers and other senior-level CPAs and management accountants from the AICPA.

Although down five percentage points from the third quarter of 2020, 72% of business executives in the first-quarter Economic Outlook Survey said their organizations had no plans to shrink their office footprint over the next 12 months. Even so, 9% percent of respondents said their companies planned to reduce traditional space by 10% to 24% over the next 12 months, compared with just 5% in the third quarter. Overall, 21% of executives said their companies expected some downward revision in office space in the coming year, up slightly from 18% in the third quarter of 2020.

The vast majority of survey participants are currently employing a hybrid mix of remote and on-site work, with just 8% saying their organizations remain all-virtual operations. Most executives also say they expect their companies to be back to pre-pandemic levels of operation within the year or are at that level already, but 27% believe it will take a year or more to climb back.

“As the recovery progresses and we move towards the next-normal, more and more people will return to their traditional places of work,” says Ash Noah, vice president and managing director of management accounting learning, education and development for AICPA. “But this doesn’t change the fundamental shifts we’re seeing toward more virtual and remote operations, which have been greatly accelerated during the past year. The nature of office space and how it is utilized will continue to evolve towards a more flexible and hybrid operating model.”

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