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Contrary To Some Earlier Predictions, New Interest Surges In Returning To Offices Post-Pandemic

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As vaccinations increase, so do the questions about returning to work.

The pandemic ushered in a wave of working from home, but don't count out your office space. As CBS 2's Marie Saavedra discovered Wednesday, there is new interest in getting Chicagoans back into their workplace buildings.

The Old Post Office downtown remains an Art-Deco institution. But go past the lobby and you'll see its next life – a modern workplace with not a soul in sight.

"Everyone's been remote for a little over a year now. and we've been going through the same struggles every organization has gone through," said Matt Gierut, chief operating officer of Codal.

Codal is a software development agency that will eventually fill seats in an office in the Old Post Office. Even while remote, Codal moved to the office space - expanding its space and adding perks such as collaborative spaces, a gym, a lounge for happy hour, and a roof with a view.

Gierut is ready to greet 90 percent of his employees who want to be back in the office.

"When COVID hit, there was such a dramatic change - and nobody knew what to do with it," said Brian Whiting.

Whiting's The Telos Group leases the Old Post Office, and after a quiet year, he says interest is up.

"Starting about 90 days ago and accelerating every month, we've gone from almost being at a flat-footed stop to running around our offices now," Whiting said.

That is a sure sign that office spaces will outlast COVID.

So is a survey of chief executive officers from KPMG, which said last August, 69 percent said they would downsize their company's physical space. When asked this spring, it was down to just 17 percent.

"For the majority of companies and people, they're going to want to be back in the office," said William Bennett, a lecturer with the Kellogg School of Management.

Bennett said he is seeing these same trends, plus the draw of updated spaces.

"What we'll see in the office space of the future is lots of amenities, more vibrancy, and more flexibility for users," he said.

That is why Codal hopes an office like the one they have put together is a relief to which to return.

"Having everyone come back into an amazing building with amazing amenities - from a culture standpoint, that's something we're really looking forward to," Gierut said.

Gierut said Codal is targeting a return to the office sometime this summer. Our expert at Kellogg thinks that will be a popular timeline across Chicago, as vaccine opens to all and people feel more comfortable taking public transportation.

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