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Office costs in Belgium fall by 4% despite low occupancy rate

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In 2020, almost all office employees in Europe worked from home for long periods of time. Despite all the empty workplaces, there was little change in company expenditure on having a full-time employee work at the office for a year. The average annual costs per FTE fell by only 2% and amounted to 9,468 euros. In Belgium, spending also fell by 4% to 11,520 euros. This is evident from the annual report ‘Occupier Cost Index’ (OCI) of real estate consultant Colliers. This barometer of the cost of real estate, considered as a reference in the sector, is composed on the basis of data from 29 countries, 3,990 buildings, 26.1 million square meters of office space and 1.96 million FTEs. The index takes into account office costs divided into four categories: People & Organization, Management, ICT, as well as Space & Infrastructure.

The meaning of facility management and office accommodation became subject to discussion due to the uncertainties raised by COVID-19. While minimal modifications were made to the working environment in response to the new situation, larger investments in office space and the working environment were postponed.

Office services were adjusted to the low occupancy rate, but existing contracts such as those for company restaurants were subject to minor corrections at most. Only variable costs such as meeting services were no longer incurred, although these were then partly replaced by higher costs for home offices or additional office cleaning. Sign that current contracts for facility management and accommodation still lack flexibility.

Bulgaria remains the cheapest country

As in previous years, Bulgaria is by far the cheapest country in Europe per FTE. Bulgaria has the lowest rents and labour costs of all countries, resulting in expenses for companies of only 2,689 euros. Croatia is second on the list of most advantageous countries. Here, companies spend 4,037 euros on office costs. Hungary completes the top three with 4,162 euros. Although labour costs in Eastern Europe have been rising for several years, rents are also the lowest.

Switzerland most expensive country

Switzerland is the most expensive country in Europe and continues to distance itself from Norway and Sweden. The costs there rose last year by 2% to 18,713 euros. Costs for number two Norway fell by 7% to 16,645 euros. Also in Sweden the costs decreased, by 5% to 16.231 euros. That is still 41% above the costs in Belgium.

For the category 'People & Organization', Belgium has the 4th highest costs. This includes labour costs, but also services to create and maintain a safe and comfortable environment, such as catering, document management, office supplies, reception, as well as security, which has been greatly strengthened since the COVID-19 crisis.

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Office costs in Belgium fall by 4% despite low occupancy rate

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Annick Vandenbulcke

Head of Occupier Advisory | Managing Director

Brussels (Colliers)

As Head of Occupier Advisory I help clients to develop real estate solutions that support their business strategy. Wheather they want to improve their image, optimize their finances, support growth or create a cultural change, their real estate can help achieve these challanges.  With a large experience in workplace strategy, tenant representation and office fitout I can provide advice throughout the whole real estate process. 

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