AI Threatens to Empty Offices Forever: Is Your Job Next?

Hello there! I’m Irving Wilkinson. Having juggled roles as a financial writer, trader, and advisor for over two decades, I’ve witnessed the ebbs and flows of the financial world. Today, I’m here to talk about a change that’s silently creeping upon us, a change that might just reshape our cities’ skylines. It’s a change propelled by Artificial Intelligence, and our office spaces are at the epicenter of it.

In the heart of major cities, skyscrapers sit desolate yet their vacancies tell a tale louder than the bustling streets below. Office availability rates are fluttering between a staggering 25% to 30% in the US, a tipping point triggered by technological innovation and a shift to remote working. But soon, AI, an unseen phenomenon, might swoop in to accelerate the ‘Great Office Exodus’.

But first, let’s put faces to the immense structures trembling in this shift. Mention ‘CBRE Investment Management’ and most investors’ ears perk up. A subsidiary of the CBRE Group, the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, CBRE IM has been a significant player in real estate investment management for over 30 years. With assets estimated to exceed $101 billion, the behemoth handles real estate investments for clients across the globe.

Then we have Berkshire Hathaway, an investment titan helmed by Warren Buffet, credited for its distinct long-term investment strategy focused on “buying businesses, not stocks.” Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the same Berkshire Hathaway that was hilariously reported by an AI system to have plunged by 99% due to a technical glitch at the NYSE!

A New AI Wave Washing Over Vacancies

The first big challenge altering the demand for office space is remote work. But another equally significant factor is automation through artificial intelligence. As per Julie Ingersoll, CBRE’s Chief Investment Officer for Americas Direct Real Estate Strategies, cities housing tech jobs, such as Santa Clara, could be susceptible to higher office vacancies. The role AI would play and the exact time frame remains hazy, but the demise of office jobs, from coders to secretaries, hangs in the air.

AI is anticipated to negatively impact the demand for office spaces by knocking an estimated 25% off office jobs. Not being entirely pessimistic, AI is also leveraging innovative techniques for businesses, like CBRE IM’s student housing partner, which leases housing using AI, replacing in-person tours and brokers.

Tangible Threat or Tech Hype?

However, AI’s growing influence isn’t limited to office spaces. Its power can bring about formidable changes in other sectors as well. The question plaguing the industry, though, is how deep AI’s impact will be. Can it completely obliterate the need for office spaces, or is it just a temporary wave that will soon settle down? As these questions echo in the boardrooms, the market is reacting and adjusting its equilibrium in response.

The Future Landscape

While we focus on the fate of the workers that AI might displace, another glaring facet is under the spotlight—the future of office spaces. A section of the investor community is floating theories about repurposing these properties as houses, data centers, or warehouses.

Yet, according to Kim Hourihan, Chief Investment Officer at CBRE IM, most of these buildings aren’t designed for easy conversion. Ultimately, the land they stand holds the highest value, a sign that seems to hint at a wave of new constructions replacing these vacant spaces—an uncertain future that we must prepare for.

Ultimately, the tale of AI and office spaces pivots between the tech revolution and real estate evolution, between progress and preservation. An unseen tsunami, AI’s disruption of office space demand, isn’t just an existential crisis for real estate players; it’s a jolt for the financial market. To survive it, we need to see this not as a threat but as an opportunity to mold our markets, cities, workplaces, and even our lives in the image of our future. The wave is coming. It’s high time we learned to surf.

I’ll be here with the surfboards, sharing insights and lessons, preparing you for the tide. So stay tuned, keep asking, and keep questioning. What’s a wave but a challenge waiting to be ridden, right?

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