The office sector is big business for the top three commercial real estate firms—CBRE, JLL, and Cushman & Wakefield sector. But the office market has seen a decline in occupancy levels after the pandemic largely due to remote work policies, prompting many clients to downsize or rightsize their spaces. As these firms assist their clients through these changes, they have also been reevaluating their own office needs. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the corporate office portfolios of JLL, CBRE, and Cushman & Wakefield looked a bit different from their current state. To gain insight into how recent events have impacted their real estate portfolios, we conducted an analysis of each firm’s office footprint before and after the pandemic. Here is what we found.
CBRE, the largest of the firms in terms of annual revenue, leases all its office properties, leaving the landlord game to its clients. And in the years since the pandemic forced or incited many an office user to decrease their office occupancies, CBRE has augmented its corporate office portfolio by more than 100 locations. Having grown its presence in EMEA and Asia Pacific substantially over the last few years, the company’s locations have jumped from 537 in 2019 to 657 in 2022. While CBRE has added numerous offices around the world, it hasn’t necessarily increased its square footage in tandem. Through its decade-old Workplace360 initiative, a strategy designed to transform CBRE’s own offices into efficient, collaborative, tech-enabled environments, the firm has been able to expand the number of office locations while maintaining a conservative use of square footage. As a result of CBRE’s commitment to its Workplace360 strategy, the firm has averted approximately 1 million square feet of its office footprint since 2013.
|CBRE Offices Worldwide||2019||2022|
Like CBRE, JLL has enhanced its corporate office portfolio in EMEA and Asia Pacific in the years since the 2020 start of the COVID-19 global health crisis. For both firms, growth in EMEA and Asia Pacific appears tied to the performance of the office market in those regions over the last few years. “The whole of Asia is back to the offices at a very normal level comparable to 2019 pre-pandemic, and the overall environment there is very strong,” Christian Ulbricht, CEO of JLL, said during the company’s fourth quarter 2022 earnings call in February. The Americas is slightly last on return-to-office. EMEA sits in the middle and Asia is very strong. JLL has reduced its number of offices in the Americas substantially, going from 189 in 2019 to 132 in 2022. On the whole, however, JLL has decreased its global office presence by just 11 offices since 2019.
|JLL Offices Worldwide||2019||2022|
Cushman & Wakefield
Of the three top firms, Cushman & Wakefield has altered its global office footprint the least since the emergence of the pandemic, with its total number of worldwide offices going from 402 in 2019 to 407 in 2022. The company reduced the number of EMEA offices slightly and increased its Asia Pacific offices by a similarly minor margin. Cushman & Wakefield also distinguishes itself from the other firms by being the only one to expand its locations in the Americas. By the end of 2022, the company had six more offices in the Americas than it did in 2019.
|Cushman & Wakefield Offices Worldwide||2019||2022|
Whether they opened new locations or came into possession of additional offices through the acquisition of other firms, CBRE, JLL, and Cushman & Wakefield have all altered their office portfolios since the arrival of COVID-19. The global office market continues to struggle to regain its pre-pandemic health and the three leading commercial real estate services firms have had to contend with the same direct or indirect consequences as other office users. The firms are not immune to the effects that economic uncertainty and return-to-work schedules have had on office occupancy needs. The numbers tell the story. According to research from JLL, the average global office vacancy rate climbed to 15 percent in the first quarter of 2023, with North America’s 20 percent vacancy rate shouldering much of the responsibility for the high figure and Europe’s 8 percent vacancy providing much-needed balance. But despite struggles in the global office sector, in total, the commercial real estate services firms’ changes in their office footprints have had little impact on office vacancies.