Remote Work Trend Has Brands Rethinking Abandoned Offices

Niraj Sharma |
 09/08/20 |
5 min read

Remote Work Trend Has Brands Rethinking Abandoned Offices

No one works in an office anymore – not in numbers that make sense to justify renting space, at least. And this realization has emerging trends around remote work on the rise, and has brands rethinking how to use abandoned office space – assuming they’ll use it at all!

Some businesses have big plans, while others seek an exit strategy. In this piece, we’ll explore each by way of market intelligence revealing:

  • How a rushed option has become THE option – working remotely takes over
  • Abandoning physical offices for digital ones
  • Adapting to the new norm – malls and office buildings reimagined

And there are always illuminating statistics to consider when making business moves, including:

  • 80% of employees said they would like to work from home pre-COVID-19
  • Employees can save between $2,500 and $4,000 a year working from home.
  • Work from home initiatives could save U.S. employers over $30 billion dollars per day

Remote Work Trend Has Taken Over

Everyone is tired of hearing how much the world has changed, but that doesn’t make it any less true or crucial to pay attention to when considering your next move as a company.

Before COVID-19 in the U.S., a conservative 5 million employees worked remotely, roughly 3.6%. It was already a growing trend, having risen 173% since 2005.

Below, our pie chart shows which industries and work forces offered WAH options and in what percentage.


And as summer turns to fall so we see a changing of leaves. Post-pandemic, it’s estimated that we will see 25-30% of employees working from home by 2021. This should be a welcome sight to workers, as before COVID-19 80% of them said they would like to work from home (WAH) some of the time, and 1/3 said they’d take a pay cut in exchange for the option.

This all seems positive for our emerging trend, but what are consumers saying about all of this now? Our consumer and market intelligence can illustrate this using Quid Social to separate each layer.

Providing consumer intelligence by way of social media platforms, blogs and shared news articles, these clusters allow us to literally read people’s minds.


The segment , Mental Health, provides explorable clues to the present mood. We see items about transparency and trust, challenges of working from home while pregnant and productivity concerns:


It’s no longer just an emerging trend; it’s reality. And brands are responding accordingly . . .

Retailers Abandoning Ship for Online

Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) is selling its custom-made new headquarters and shifting toward its employees working remotely. They will open smaller offices to act as mini hubs and let employees work from home.

Likewise, we also see software company SoundCommerce polling their teams to reveal the majority preferred to work from home. Their response might not have been equal to selling custom-created headquarters, but close: they loaded up office equipment and delivered it to their employees homes.

And then FacebookTwitter, Okta and Box are among tech companies that will be making a more permanent shift to a WAH approach.

Market intelligence further details this emerging trend.

Below, top subjects are being discussed with the top companies mentioned, which are, naturally, tech companies that facilitate conversation, including previously dreaded social channels that employers are now realizing they can fold into their efforts. Lead dog, Google dominates most categories, with lots of conversation happening on and about Twitter and Facebook as well:


And the stats are beneficial for both parties:

And this highlights everything positive about it, with our word cloud showing sentiment drivers – words attributed to emotions surrounding the home office – supporting that overwhelming emotion. We see words like Best and Love. And each word is clickable to explore.


But brands should also consistently monitor for negative sentiment – no matter how small.

Negative Emotions Around Remote Work Matter Too

If we apply a personal narrative filter to our search, we can discover what employees do not like about WAH.

ADHD, distraction and lack of childcare are top reasons that remote work is a struggle for many. As a company, this is an opportunity to add perks like paid childcare service to encourage a healthy work environment or apply strategies to help those struggling with distraction better focus. These comments can be a compass for your brand.

remote-work-struggles-adhd remote-work-struggle-parents

And after working through WAH snafus, brands can look toward other uses for these abandoned spaces . . .

Malls Reimagined as Warehouses & More

It’s been 40 years since “the Mall” reigned supreme. Once filled with bustling people and energetic teens, they now stand as a monument to yesteryear and a marker of time as online shopping took over.

What’s to become of them now?

Amazon already had their thinking cap on, and these ghostly malls will play home to their distribution centers across the U.S. They already have one in Akron, Ohio and are in talks with Simon Property Group, which currently holds 63 JC Penney and 11 Sears stores.

And just as malls are being repurposed, so too can these now abandoned office buildings seeking buyers.

People are anxious to resume a normal existence – and the movies might be just the ticket.

Mini-showing for Movies?

These offices could be used for private viewings for small groups. Regal already offers this, and they sell at a premium – perhaps they planned ahead using market research with an eye on emerging trends.


And as more people embrace tiny living philosophy, an opportunity could be waiting in micro apartments.

Micro Apartments for Remote Workers?

In 2016 alone, 8,000 apartments were built in England that measured less than 37 m² or 398 square feet. People are more ecologically aware and have a desire to reduce their carbon footprint, these small spaces are less expensive and have lower energy costs.


The claustrophobic among us may disagree. But that’s not the only frightening idea we have!

Haunted Houses in Abandoned Spaces?

In 2016 Halloween was a $8.4 Billion dollar industry with 21% of people saying they would visit a haunted house. Then we have Spirit Halloween stores that make use of vacant retailer spaces for its pop-up stores and that alone bring in an estimated $8.4 billion dollars a year. So, why not repurpose these abandoned, and already spooky, places as a haunted house?

Halloween is clearly big business, and using social media listening, we get a full analysis – from top authors and posts which include mentions, followers and total engagements. Consumers are ready.


And then, office buildings are optimal for storage, charter schools and data centers as well! With proper market research, together with social listening, your brand can spot emerging trends, adapting to everything that’s thrown at you and maybe creating something new in the coming months! Reach out for a demo and we can help you spot trends that make sense for your company.

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