COVID and the Work Environment: What Does it Look Like in the Denver Metro Area?

At TGRP Solutions, we talk often with our clients about how the pandemic has affected them. There isn’t a business in Colorado—or across the country—that hasn’t felt some impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but if there’s one thing that has suddenly become more commonplace for many businesses, it is the introduction of remote working.

Generally, we hear one of three arrangements among our clients, which include some of the largest/publicly traded companies in Denver as well as privately owned businesses:

Clients that went fully remote in March 2020 and are still fully remote

Clients that went fully remote in March 2020 but have since adapted to more of a hybrid schedule, with some employees working in person and others working remotely

Clients that went fully remote in March 2020 and have called back employees to return to the office

A glance at the news websites tells the story of an empty downtown Denver, just as many other large metropolitan areas across the U.S. are experiencing. This Fox31 article says that during Q4 2020, the United States had its third-worst quarter on record for office space demand (according to Denver-based CBRE).

And here in the Mile High City, vacancies are high—16.8% vacant in Denver and 19.7% vacant in downtown Denver as of Q4 2021, in fact. That’s worse than the U.S. downtown office average vacancy of 15.1% (16% for U.S. cities). CPR shared in May 2021 that there was a whopping 1.9 million square feet of office space in Denver out for sublease—a jump of 48% from when the pandemic hit in March 2020.

Are Companies Returning to the Office More in 2021?

Now that it’s fall 2021, and the Delta variant of COVID-19 is in full force (and mask mandates back in place in some places), are companies returning to in-person working as we all assumed they would (many even announcing those plans)?

Not exactly. In fact, many businesses are in the midst of some difficult times, trying to determine what the right thing to do is. Twitter went full remote in October 2020. Apple is pushing a hybrid model, with teams working three days in the office, two days remote. This BusinessInsider article shares a list of companies that extended their remote work policies for the long term. Google was calling employees back to the office in September 2021, but delayed that mandatory return to January 10, 2022 just this past week. The company said it will require employees who return to work to be vaccinated.

Here in Colorado, we’re facing the same thing: companies currently making decisions with new information and new risks to weigh (because of the Delta variant). This CBS4 article talks about how many Coloradoans are seeking to change careers and find the flexibility that the pandemic offered them (or more accurately, forced upon them). We too have seen that companies that are forcing employees to return to the workplace with no flexible options are experiencing pushback and even some turnover.

Not Every Company Can Offer Remote Options.

The accounting and finance industry is one that lends itself well to remote working and we are seeing the vast majority of TGRP Solutions clients offering some form of flexibility to employees.  That said, not every company can accommodate this. There are some that did not have the digital infrastructure in place to continue remote very easily, and some whose businesses require people to work in person as often as possible.

Time Will Tell.

Like most areas of the country, Denver is experiencing a lot of uncertainty regarding the traditional workplace. Two years ago, most clients of ours at TGRP Solutions were traditional regarding work arrangements. They had offices where employees went every day to do their jobs, with a few exceptions.

Today is a different story, and even though it seemed that the worst of COVID-19 was behind us several months ago, the surge of the Delta variant is changing things once again.

This CPR article sums it up well: foot traffic downtown is nowhere near what it was pre-pandemic, but it is more than it was a year ago. The fall 2021 return-to-office plan that many businesses in Denver and around the U.S. had penciled is out the window for now.

Reopening Plans Will Likely Include Flexibility.

If there’s one thing that seems to be true, it is that office life has changed forever. Some companies have abandoned their office spaces, while others have scaled back and committed to remote work in some capacity going forward.

If you’re a professional looking to change jobs, this is certain to be a factor that you consider when evaluating future employers. Where remote work was once an uncommon perk, it is now an expectation among many accounting and finance professionals we work with.

If you’re a company looking to hire, things have gotten more complicated because of these changes. Interviewees might want to understand your short-term and long-term plans, even if you don’t have those ironed out yet. Your traditional idea of an office has obviously shifted, and it certainly has for the professional as well.

One thing is certain: nothing is certain! But if you’re looking to make your next career move and want to understand the landscape here in Denver, or you’re an employer wanting to understand how things have changed as far as employee expectations, call us. We’ll share what we know so you can stay apprised of this ever-changing conversation!