Daily Herald opinion: Yes, businesses and developers can figure out the remote-work trend
Rather than force a return to pre-pandemic life, businesses and developers in the suburbs find solutions
The change in the office world to remote working continues, including and maybe especially in the suburbs, and many businesses and employees are still trying to figure it out. The question persists for many businesses of whether to allow hybrid working, and if so, how many days should be required in the office. The answer keeps changing.
With that comes uncertainty in the suburbs' commercial real estate market. Sales of enormous office campuses have happened. Allstate sold its campus near Northbrook last year; Baxter International has put its own near Deerfield on the market this year. Both cited the hybrid-working trend as a reason not to keep so much office space anymore. This followed other high-profile campus sales like the AT&T campus in Hoffman Estates that became Bell Works Chicagoland, and of course the Motorola and Sears campuses in the Northwest suburbs.
Meanwhile, other smaller office complexes have been going at least partially unused, prompting local officials to call on businesses to somehow get their workers back in them.
Yet, there are many signs that the suburbs can indeed adapt to this new working world.
Enter, first of all, the coworking-space trend. Offices full of desks and chairs, or even couches, and complete with high-speed internet as well as conference rooms, plus maybe snack and coffee vending or even a lounge or cafe, are being opened throughout the suburbs.
A place called CoLab opened last year in the Bell Works campus. A chain called Brick and Mortar will open next year in a former clothing shop in downtown Wheaton; it already has locations in Park Ridge, Deerfield and LaGrange, with another being built in Glen Ellyn. The owner of The Office Clubhouse in Mundelein has just bought larger space in Grayslake to expand.
Other examples abound as the trend that started before the pandemic now grows, with workers wanting neither to work at home all the time nor make long commutes -- and employers accommodating, sometimes even by renting out coworking space for them.
Meanwhile, building owners are finding other things to do with their properties. More landlords are renting out medical office space, serving health care professionals' interest in meeting patients closer to where they are in the suburbs. The Allstate campus is looking to become warehouse or distribution-center space.
And in another interesting case reflecting the remote work trend, Schaumburg is allowing a developer to replace four vacant office buildings on Algonquin Road with a 411-unit apartment building. Not only will some of the apartments be built with dedicated office space, but a penthouse-level central area will include work and conference spaces. Residents could take a break from their home office to work in another office in the same building!
Salute to these businesses and developers for not forcing outdated lifestyles to return and creating solutions for the changing working world.