NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The future of work in Nashville could be giving employees an office culture without the office.

According to Vanderbilt Business Studies Associate Professor Patrick Leddin, people entering the workforce or looking for new jobs are seeking out roles that offer flexibility.

“They are starting to say, ‘Do I want to go to the office all the time?’ and businesses are saying, ‘Do I want to pay for all this space?'” Leddin said.

The solution many companies are settling on is hybrid work: allowing employees to work from home but also having an option for them to come into the office.

According to a recent report from Colliers 2022 Nashville Real Estate Index, 78% of workers went to the office before the pandemic, but now that number is down about 67%.

However, just because workers aren’t going into the office doesn’t mean they are spending all their time at home.

Coworking spaces across Nashville say they are seeing more people who work remotely for larger companies renting out desks and meeting rooms on the company dime.

“We are finding that traditional companies are paying individuals or teams to come in and be members,” said Director at Collective 615 Ashley Griffin.

Griffin said the members of her coworking space are looking for a comfortable and relaxed environment like home where they can also enjoy some of the more social aspects of working in an office.

“They have office mates. Meaning, we can come and grab a cup of coffee at the little kitchenette and you can have those mini conversations like, ‘how was your weekend?'” she said.

At InDo Nashville, meeting rooms are becoming the most popular areas in their coworking space.

“We are also seeing companies with groups of people working remotely wanting to get together in a neutral place,” InDo owner John Richardson said. “So they will rent our conference room and get a day pass or something like that.”

Leddin said this tactic of bringing teams together for meetings and then letting them go off to their own space to do their work makes sense.

“There is a certain degree of energy or synergy, if you will, a sense of connection to something bigger than yourself that comes from that. But then there is also the reality that everyone goes back to their workspace and back to their cubicle sitting there thinking, ‘Why can’t I just be doing this from home?'” he explained.

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Considering so many of the buildings being constructed in downtown Nashville were proposed in the year before the pandemic and the surge in remote work, Leddin said it’s possible some of the companies with leases might shift their plans.

“We could see places that were initially going to be office spaces turn into something very different. People may not be choosing to go to work there anymore but they might be choosing to live in that particular building,” he said.

According to the Colliers report, about 13% of companies have put their leasing transactions on hold and 24% were proceeding with their transactions but also closing down many locations. And while there hasn’t been a decrease in demand for office space in Nashville since 2019, there has been a 40% decrease in the square footage groups are requiring.

“When companies decide after maybe having a lease in place that they are going to pull back a little bit maybe sublet or step away from some of the commitments they made, I think it’s an indication that they themselves are reevaluating what the future will look like,” Leddin said.

But while the future of work in Nashville isn’t exactly clear, coworking space owners and business analysts alike believe it won’t be like it was before the pandemic.

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“Do I think everybody is going to be downtown every day 9-5 like maybe they did in the past? No, I don’t think that will happen. I think there some flexibility will happen and people will work 70 to 80 percent of the time from their homes,” Leddin said.