The news seemed to come out of nowhere last week when Kforce Inc., one of Tampa Bay’s largest public companies, announced it was selling its Ybor City headquarters and shifting its workforce to a hybrid model, with some employees in the office and many more working from home.
But it’s actually something the staffing and professional services firm had been thinking about since before the pandemic.
“We were already (looking) in that direction,” Kforce president Joe Liberatore said in an interview Tuesday. “Like with many things the pandemic has created, it’s pushed things that would have taken years to accomplish.”
With 2,200 employees — including more than 600 in Tampa Bay — as well as nearly 12,000 consultants worldwide, Kforce is the biggest local company to make such a public commitment to a hybrid work environment, in which huge swaths of employees no longer commute to an office full-time.
But it won’t be the last.
“You don’t know how adaptable you’re going to be until you’re forced, right?” said David Oak, the chief marketing officer of Dunedin’s Achieva Credit Union, which is shifting some of its 421 employees to remote and hybrid work. “The pandemic definitely forced us.”
Throughout the past year-plus, experts have predicted that some elements of work-from-home culture would stick around forever, as companies see the bottom-line benefits of downsizing their corporate real estate footprint.
For Kforce, the $24 million sale of its headquarters should yield savings of up to $2 million per year, executives said on an earnings call Monday. Liberatore said the company would target a new space about half the size of its current 130,000-square-foot home.
“It’ll be a much more open environment,” he said, “much more collaborative than your typical jamming (of) cubes into an office space, and a bunch of meeting rooms, where the only time people interact with individuals is when they’re passing each other in the hallways. This will be more open, collaborative, supported by technology, so that our people can interact more effectively.”
Prior to the pandemic, Achieva had about 200 employees working out of its 67,000-square-foot headquarters in Dunedin. It only took a few months for the company to realize there were benefits to hybrid work, as some employees told their bosses they preferred the flexibility.
Achieva has shifted certain departments— marketing, accounting, human resources — to remote work, freeing up 5,000 square feet of office space that the company has since subleased out.
Oak estimates about half of Achieva’s headquartered employees may return to work on a full-time or hybrid basis, while the rest will keep working from home.
“Things will change as the landscape changes, as vaccinations become more prevalent, and people feel comfort levels are changing,” Oak said. “Maybe at one point, it will be no hybrid, with 100 people back in, and 100 people working from home. But we’ve got to take it a day at a time, and we’re not there yet.”
Kforce will close its office sale in May, then will lease the space back for up to 18 months while it searches for a new home. Liberatore declined to name the buyer. Nor would he say whether Kforce had quietly been marketing the property, or the buyer had surfaced unsolicited.
The company does plan to stay in the region, Liberatore said — though that doesn’t necessarily mean Hillsborough County.
“We’re looking at the entire Tampa Bay area,” he said. “Logically, Tampa, or this side of the bay, is probably going to accommodate us a little more effectively. When you get to the other side of the bay, based upon what’s there, it’s just a matter of really finding what’s going to be the best fit for us.”
Once Kforce moves, Liberatore said, it’ll be a story they can share with their 4,000 company clients worldwide — many of whom are implementing hybrid work models of their own.
“It dovetails with the customers that we support on a day-in and day-out basis, to be more like how they’re working, and how their employees are going to be working,” he said.”I do believe in speaking with many of those organizations, we are very far ahead of the curve.”