Sep 22, 2023 - News

How working from home has impacted Tampa Bay

Illustration of an office cubicle with a roof like a house.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A good chunk of Tampa Bay is working from home, and that could change the way our area looks.

Why it matters: Workers in America's biggest, most competitive cities aren't giving up the flexibility and savings β€” in both time and gas money β€” of working from home, Axios' Sam Baker and Simran Parwani report.

  • "Work is no longer a place," Tampa commercial real estate advisor Chelsea Drinkard told Axios. "Work is now a verb."

Zoom in: More than 21% of Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metro area employees were working from home as of 2022, per new census figures released last week.

The big picture: Overall, 15% of the U.S. worked from home last year β€” but the numbers are much higher on both the East and West coasts, and in other large metro areas.

Data: Census Bureau; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

How it happened: Working from home untethered people from areas they didn't like. And many of those workers flocked to Florida and Tampa Bay.

  • Before the pandemic, urban centers like Tampa and St. Petersburg were already converting from business sectors to entertainment districts with a bigger emphasis on arts and sports venues, shopping, and living.
  • Our region's lack of public transportation also plays a large part in the work-from-home trend, says Tampa Bay Chamber president and CEO Bob Rohrlack. "People just aren't willing to sit in traffic," he told Axios.

Yes, but: Office space is still seen as vital for many companies, Drinkard told Axios.

  • Young workers who graduated college and started their first jobs during the pandemic lack vital professional development skills, she said, and they're seeking real-life mentorship.
  • "They don't know how to have a conversation in person or shake someone's hand," Drinkard said. "Zoom doesn't directly replace popping your head in to ask your supervisor a question, grabbing lunch together, walking in and saying hi to people."

The intrigue: Office spaces are also being reimagined to focus more on meetings and creative collaborations.

  • As employees split time between in-person and online work, the offices they return to will get leaner, Drinkard said. "Hot desks" akin to shared tables in coffee shops are now replacing individual cubicles.
  • Some offices are also adding restaurants and cafes to mimic the more fun work-from-home environments.

What we're watching: Drinkard estimates that more offices will transform in the next five years, once large subleases are absorbed back to landlords who will reconfigure them to meet new trends.

  • "We're never going back to what it used to be," she said.
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