The Future of the Office


June 22, 2023


Key Findings

  • 46% of commercial real estate professionals indicate that zoning/permitting is impacting their ability to convert current office spaces into other uses.
  • Flexible and hybrid workspaces that promote collaboration with offsite teams will be hot trends over the next five years.
  • 71% of builders and 68% of architects are receiving more frequent requests to convert existing office space for a different use compared to one year ago.

Executive Summary

The future of the office is here. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Future of the Office survey has found that the new office will be more flexible, open, and health-conscious than the old. As many look to repurpose existing commercial spaces, the professionals surveyed said government red tape is a key barrier to office space conversion. The survey also found that some commercial real estate professionals think offices will be converted to other commercial uses—but few anticipate they will be transformed into residential properties.

The commercial real estate professionals surveyed say that government regulation is a primary barrier to office space conversion, but that existing office footprints and environmental rules are also contributing challenges. Almost half (46%) of commercial real estate professionals indicate zoning/ permitting is impacting their ability to convert current office space into other types of real estate with nearly one in four (23%) saying it is the most important factor. In addition, 47% of those surveyed indicate building layouts are impacting their ability to convert office space into other types of real estate, while more than two in five profesionals (44%) indicate environmental regulations.

Architects (54%) are more likely than builders (35%) or owner/managers (24%) to say that converting office spaces into other commercial uses will be a trend in the coming year. However, real estate professionals are more skeptical that conversion from commercial to residential space will be a big trend this year. Among the different specialties, builders are more likely to believe converting office space into housing will be a big trend. One in five builders (20%) believe converting office spaces into residential housing units will be the most influential trend in office design in the next year. This is compared to just 6% of both property owners/managers and architects saying so.

The findings from the survey show that a majority of commercial real estate professionals believe that improving office air quality (58%), spaces that accommodate social distancing (52%), and spaces which allow for co-working (52%) will be influential trends in office design over the next year.

Most of the professionals surveyed foresee a significant change in long-term trends. A majority of those surveyed say flexible workspaces (65%), improved ventilation (63%), and work-from-home/hybrid spaces (61%) will be hot trends in office space design over the next five years.

The purpose of this study—which was conducted in late 2022—was to identify trends in office space conversion, design, and usage among commercial real estate professionals (architects, builders, and owners/managers).

The specific research objectives of this study are to:

  • Identify the most influential office space trends in the near and long term.
  • Determine expected changes in office design.
  • Measure the frequency of office space conversion requests.
  • Determine the most frequent types of office conversions being requested.
  • Identify where office space conversions are most likely to occur in the future.
  • Determine the primary factors impacting the ability to convert office space.

The Chamber plans to conduct future, similar surveys to document evolving trends in the commercial real estate market and office environment.


    The Future of the Office