Today, it's almost impossible to buy a car that doesn't have some sort of sensor technology to help you drive. More and more cars are offering some degree of autonomy, and fully autonomous vehicles are coming. As we move to a world where, some day, your car will drive you to work, the way that you look at an office space and its suitability will change. Some of today's most important factors won't matter at all, and others will become crucial.
With the exception of markets like Manhattan where people can reasonably use public transit, ride-sharing services or car services to commute, parking is usually a major consideration in selecting an office space. After all, if your workers can't park, they might not be able to get to work.
In a world where cars drive themselves, parking ceases to be a concern. If a self-driving car doesn't have a nearby place to park, it can drive itself miles away, and return when it needs to get back. This eliminates a major drawback for buildings with limited parking or high-cost parking, giving you more choices for future locations.
Location Doesn't Matter...
Right now, it can be hard to strike a balance in choosing office space. You need to think about proximity to your workforce, proximity to amenities, ingress and egress, and many other locational issues. Long commutes negatively impact health and job satisfaction. But that's because commute time is usually either unproductive or less productive than traditional working hours.
When the car does the driving, though, commute time can become productive time. It's conceivable that a worker could leave home at 8:30, work for 3 hours in their self-driving car (at a desk in the back seat!), spend a few hours at work, head out at 2:30 pm and be home at 5:30, after another 3 hours of additional work. After all, Gensler's research shows that most workers spend the majority of their time doing focus work -- which can be easily done from a self-driving car. This means that your workers and your office space can be just about anywhere.
...But Maybe It Does
Of course, if self-driving cars mean that people can live anywhere, it also means that consumer-facing business need to be where they live. One possible example of this could be if people choose to live full time at their weekend houses (since their self-driving cars make that long daily drive into productive time). This could lead to increased population in rural and exurban communities, driving demand for many services that are delivered in offices. If you're serving that population, you might need office space where they choose to live.
The #1 Office Space Amenity? A Porte Cochere...
The biggest change in office space, though, could be in an area that most people don't consider. Right now, people typically walk into office buildings. A limited number of them might have parking in the basement or in an above-ground ramp inside the building, but many office workers come through the front door. With self-driving cars, people will still come through the front door, but they will also be driven to it. To handle that additional traffic, try to find office buildings that have -- or will have -- multiple porte cochere-like entrances so that people and their cars can easily come and go safely and under cover from the weather.
Autonomous vehicles won't just change the way people drive. It will also change how and where they live and work. Office space designed for these changes should make the companies that occupy them uniquely desirable workplaces in that future.
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