Air filters and outdoor spaces: Office costs rise as workers return.

The cost of office maintenance dropped significantly in the pandemic when workers went remote, as companies saved money on services like cleaning and security, as well as perks like dry cleaning and endless pantry snacks.

But as employees begin to head back to offices, the cost of running the workplace is increasing.

By December, about 40 percent of workers in the United States had returned at least part time, although the Omicron variant has put a chill on return-to-office plans. And developers still expect that employees will be back on-site in the long run, even if hybrid work becomes more common. CP Group, which owns and manages 32 office buildings, mostly in the Southeast and Southwest, has bought $1.2 billion of office space since May, a wager that staffs will return.

More robust air filtration and newly installed outdoor spaces are among the items that will add to developers’ costs when more employees return. New cleaning practices may make those services more expensive, and landlords are offering new amenities to lure tenants back.

“Operating expenses were down a bit in 2020,” said Kristin Mueller, chief operating officer for property management at JLL, a real estate services company that oversees more than 1,000 office buildings across the United States. “For 2022 properties budgets, we are anticipating modest overall increases.”

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