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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The long process of reopening office buildings after months of being shut down will require new technology, careful planning and far fewer workers than before the pandemic.

Driving the news: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new guidelines on Wednesday detailing how office buildings can reopen.

  • The short version: Face masks, handshake bans, physical distancing, daily health checks and staggered shifts.

"We are never going to have the same number of people in the office than we did before" COVID-19, said Sanjay Rishi, CEO of Corporate Solutions in the Americas of public brokerage firm JLL. "Organizations are redefining 'we' space versus 'me' space."

  • Rishi said building tenants are actively redesigning offices to allow more personal space. This includes marked corridors to direct traffic flow and removing open-area desks and conference room chairs.
  • Employers are installing digital tools: Sensors that alert which spaces are occupied, assigned elevator trips and touchless entry that doesn't require a badge.

The big question: What happens to commercial real estate in a work-from-home world?

  • On the one hand, full-time or hybrid work-from-home environments logically reduce the demand for office real estate.
  • On the other, "de-densifying" offices means people that do go to work will have to spread out, driving the demand for more square footage.

Where it stands: There's broad consensus that offices will continue to exist, even if they look different.

"The role of the office has not changed. Maybe the location may change, the design may change, but it is a place for collaboration, for innovation and creativity. ... I can see the increasing flexibility in terms of work-life arrangements, but I have not met any individual with the aspiration to work from home for the rest of their career."
— Tim Wang, managing director and head of investment research for Clarion Partners, on an Urban Land Institute webinar

Go deeper

Felix Salmon, author of Capital
Aug 19, 2020 - Economy & Business

How this recession is different

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic is striking directly at the heart of what has historically made America stronger than almost any other global economy — our awesome productivity.

Why it matters: Modern recessions, even the Great Recession of 2008-9, have tended to have little to no effect on how efficiently America produces goods and services. This recession is different. COVID-19 has hammered the potency of our companies and workers.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Aug 18, 2020 - Economy & Business

The American real estate conundrum

Reproduced from CivicScience; Chart: Axios Visuals

The housing market has been a solidly bright spot in the U.S. economy in recent months.

Yes, but: There remain serious questions about what the next phase for the market will be as the coronavirus pandemic has created an enormous amount of uncertainty about where and how people will live.

17 mins ago - Economy & Business

Boeing gets huge 737 Max order from Ryanair, boosting hope for quick rebound

Ryanair low cost airline Boeing 737-800 aircraft as seen over the runway. Photo by Nik Oiko/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Dublin-based Ryanair said it would add 75 more planes to an existing order for Boeing's 737 Max airplanes, a giant vote of confidence as Boeing seeks to revive sales of its best-selling plane after a 20-month safety ban following two fatal crashes.

The big picture: Ryanair's big order, on the heels of breakthrough vaccine news, is also a promising sign that the devastated airline industry might recover from the global pandemic sooner than expected.