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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The huge, decked-out corner office for executives was already dying. The pandemic may have delivered a final blow.

The big picture: As hybrid and remote work become more common, the office is transforming from a place for focused work to a destination for collaboration. Meeting rooms and open plan café-like seating areas are replacing offices — and where you sit and work no longer denotes your place in the hierarchy.

By the numbers: Some 60% of firms are re-designing their offices for the post-pandemic era, according to a new report from the commercial real estate firm CBRE, which surveyed large companies around the world. Of those companies, a quarter are eliminating private offices entirely.

  • The firms that are holding onto private offices are downsizing them. Around 80% are limiting them to 149 square feet or smaller.

"People are choosing to do their heads-down work at home," says CBRE's Susan Wasmund, the lead author of the report. "They want to come back to collaborate, and they want to come back for team events."

  • As the office is revamped for teamwork, companies are giving the square footage they're taking away from private offices to meeting rooms of all shapes and sizes.
  • And they're adding amenities to make workers' time in the office worthwhile. CBRE looked specifically at firms' headquarters and found that 58% are building auditoriums, 31% have outdoor spaces, and 69% have onsite baristas or coffee shops.

Yes, but: "Private office space will never totally go away," says Wasmund.

  • Traditional companies like investment banks and law firms will likely be the last holdouts, retaining some aspects of formal office hierarchy and trappings for C-suite executives.
  • Many workers will experience pandemic nervousness for a few years and seek out personal space, says Peter Cappelli, a professor and director of Wharton's Center for Human Resources.
  • And video meetings will continue to be popular, since not everyone will be in the office all the time, and people will still need rooms to duck into to attend those meetings.

What's disappearing is our old idea of private offices — earmarked for one person and decorated with framed family photos. Companies are replacing those with call rooms or study rooms that anyone can reserve as needed.

  • In fact, the share of firms using desk reservation systems for workers coming into offices has jumped from around 15% pre-pandemic to around 50% now, Wasmund notes.

One more new trend: In the past, workers had to submit requests — and often provide medical reasons — to get standing desks. Now, 65% of firms say offering a sitting and standing option is standard for the offices of the future.

The bottom line: As companies try to lure workers back to the office, even if just for a few days a week, the rooms with the best views and the nicest furnishings will increasingly be the common spaces, not the executive suite.

Go deeper

Nov 23, 2021 - Health

Private equity firms buy Athenahealth, again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Private equity firms Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman acquired Athenahealth, an electronic health records vendor for physician practices, for $17 billion.

Why it matters: This is one of the largest leveraged buyouts of the year, and it means the previous private equity firms that took Athenahealth private in 2018 — Veritas Capital and Evergreen Coast Capital, a subsidiary of Elliott Management— tripled their investment.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

The next big bottleneck in the global vaccination effort

Illustration: Rae Cook/Axios

The world still needs more coronavirus vaccines, but an additional bottleneck has emerged in many low-income countries: They need help getting shots in arms.

Why it matters: Increasing vaccination rates across the world is both a humanitarian necessity and the best way to prevent dangerous new variants from emerging, but it increasingly requires complex problem-solving.

Updated 3 hours ago - Health

COVID-19 Omicron variant cases identified in Europe, U.K.

People wearing masks walk in London on Nov. 25. Photo: Li Ying/Xinhua via Getty Images

Health officials in the United Kingdom, Italy and Germany announced on Saturday that they've detected the first known cases of the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The discoveries come as the world scrambles to respond to concerns over the new variant, discovered in South Africa earlier this week.

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