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Post-pandemic: business growth in Sofia, positive outlook for the near future

During the course of May 2021 MBL’s office agency team conducted a survey amongst 100 office occupiers in Sofia with approximate headcount of 28,000 and total footprint of approximately 250,000 sq.m. (11% of the Class A & Class B office space inventory), 53% of which class A. The list includes companies from a wide range of industries, 74% of which international, while most of the respondents (58%) represent the IT and Professional Services sectors.
The survey results show that the last year marked by instability and difficulties caused by the pandemic did not have negative impact on businesses in Sofia. Nearly half (46%) of respondents share they haven’t had any changes in the past 12 months and 42% have increased their workforce in the past year (6% of which with more than 25%), while only 12% of the companies had to shrink.
There has been a slight decline in companies' growth projections when compared to pre-pandemic times. 50% of the interviewed companies intend to increase their workforce in the next 12-24 months, compared to 69% of respondents planning an expansion in 2019. A visible change is being observed in the plans of organizations regarding the size of their office space in the foreseeable future. Only 10% of the companies share their plans for renting additional office space, compared to 54% of organizations planning for bigger office in 2019. In a post-pandemic context and given the increasing use of the remote work model as dominant work practice amongst organizations in Sofia, plans for more employees don’t necessarily translate into bigger office and renting additional office space.
Although three-quarters (75%) of respondents share that the remote mode of working had a positive impact on their business and intend to continue utilizing it as a strategy in the future, digital technologies often fall short when it comes to fostering a relationship, integrating an employee in the team or creating space for new ideas and collaboration.
87% of companies find the social connectivity brought by the traditional office vital, followed by 75% appreciating the space for collaboration the office brings. 73% of respondents share they’ve experienced improvement in company culture when compared to remote working, while 39% of organizations believe they’re more productive working from the office. 28% are the companies that find it easier to balance between work and personal life when in office environment. 
As a result of the pandemic and the established remote work model, the role that the office plays is gradually shifting from a place where much of the workload and daily activities take place towards an intersection of other aspects of the business that would otherwise be ineffective if held digitally.
The results show that 62% of respondents prefer to conduct their onboarding and training activities in the office, while more than half (58%) still see the office as traditional place to do most of the workload. 51% use the office as a shared social and collaborative space and nearly half (46%) prefer to meet with their clients there.
Flexible is the word that best describes the future office. The majority (70%) of the interviewed organizations plan to include a form of teleworking in their long-term strategy, while just over half (51%) of respondents are confident that they will continue to use the traditional office in one form or another, and more than a quarter (26%) will include flexible or shared workspaces in their future work model.  

About MBL:
MBL is the leading company specialized in commercial real estate, providing consulting and brokerage services. The company has built a solid reputation in the real estate market in Bulgaria and offers complex solutions to local and international clients - building contractors, investors, financial institutions, tenants and others. The company's expert team has solid experience in property management, financial services, investment and project management.
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