Our offices have their own special place in our hearts during the holiday season. For some the office is a place to hide presents from prying eyes, for others it is a place to showcase their most embarrassing sweaters. Many workers have forgotten what their office even looks like, their desk sitting just as it was nine months ago. This holiday season, most offices won’t be throwing cheerful holiday parties. The virus has prevented us from our normal Christmas gatherings, but the virus can’t stop holiday cheer. Whether you can appreciate it in person or not, your office lobby is beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
“For most of our clients, the budget has not changed and the need for holiday cheer has never been greater,” Transwestern Senior Vice President Asset Services, Midwest Region, Micah Larmie said. “We have a daily piano player in the lobby of RBC Plaza in Minneapolis throughout December and continue to host socially distant tenant events in the lobbies of many of our downtown assets, providing individually wrapped treats and goodies throughout the Midwest.”
Workers coming into the office are grateful to see lobbies and commons spaces with trees lit, wreaths hung and holly strung. In a year full of unprecedented events every week, tenants are grateful that management and ownership were doing everything possible to keep some normalcy during the holiday season. We can’t forget it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
This fall building occupancy started to tick back up, but as winter sets in and case counts rise across the country, occupancy is dropping once again. Companies still aren’t comfortable asking their employees to come into the office, so many have extended work from home policies at least through the end of the year. City and State officials are urging extra caution this winter. Across the 10 major metros monitored by Kastle Systems, a security access service for commercial owners, all are experiencing occupancy decline since October, hitting an average of 24.7 percent last week. That’s a lot of workers who won’t be having a holly jolly Christmas at the office.
“Even though we are seeing a much smaller population of tenants coming into the offices, they are grateful that we have worked hard to be able to safely provide them with activities and engagement with the tenant events, giving them something to look forward to each week beyond the quietness that the buildings are experiencing,” Laramie said.
People are bringing a little extra holiday cheer home with them this year compared to last Christmas. Most holiday shoppers said the pandemic had no impact on their holiday spending plans this year and most also feel that given the pandemic, they are more interested in holiday decorations and seasonal items, according to the National Retail Federation. Some retailers like Home Depot, Costco and Walmart are having trouble keeping decorations in stock, since purchase order decisions were made months ago.
For the most part, office parties have been put on hold, or moved online. Property managers are not advising tenants on how to handle events within their companies, they simply ask that each company abide by the guidance set forth by the local and state health jurisdictions. Property managers are finding creative ways to spread a cheerful spirit in their quiet offices. At 213 W. Institute in Chicago, Transwestern’s property management team is hosting a “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” event serving grab-and-go soups paired with sliders, warm cobbler and cider. At Accenture Tower in Chicago, they hosted an Après Ski Party serving make-your own s’mores kits and hot chocolate with toppings to go. As a way to give back, they put together greeting card stations to make holiday cards for children and families at Ronald McDonald House Charities, Transwestern’s national philanthropy partner this year.
Not everyone is rockin’ around the Christmas tree. Some building owners and facility managers have decreased their budget, according to the National Association of Landscaping Professionals. When the leaves fall and the grass stops growing, landscapers become decorters, relying on lucrative commercial contracts for lighting and decor. Some landscaping firms have noticed their clients aren’t going all out this year.
“People always spent money on Christmas, and never spent less on Christmas and they always spent the same, if not more,” Craig Lustig, president of Anything Groes, based in Crestwood, Kentucky told the NALP. “It was just something that was so important to businesses at that time of year to spread happiness. This is the first year where people have paused or even cut back just a little bit on what they’re doing. Primarily, in some instances, it’s because there’s nobody in the office, or there’s very few people in the office. So, they’re just like, ‘Well, why do we need to do Christmas if they’re not around?’ This is the first time that’s happened since I’ve been doing it. That’s 21 years that I’ve seen any kind of a pullback.”
While typical demand has been subdued, other projects opportunities have arisen. Drive-thru lighting displays are popping up in more places, giving landscaping firms a chance to deck the halls with their best work. Luckily the residential side of business is booming.
Your office building and property managers will have a blue Christmas without you. Each facility management team has made their own choice on what to do about decorations. Most have decided to keep spreading holiday cheer, some have not. It feels like we’ve been fighting Mr. Grinch since March, but so far he still hasn’t stolen the holiday season.