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Navigating Hybrid Work: Insights from Corporate Real Estate Leaders

Event before the pandemic, the impact of hybrid work models sparked profound changes in how organizations perceive and utilize office spaces. As companies navigate the shift towards remote and flexible work arrangements, discussions around workplace experience, real estate strategy, and employee engagement have taken center stage.

From leveraging advanced technologies to optimize space utilization to redefining office designs that foster collaboration and community, businesses are reimagining their approach to physical work environments.

Last week, Lambent hosted a roundtable discussion with some of Boston’s leaders in CRE Workplace and Real Estate strategy. The roundtable covered a wide range of topics related to workplace experience, real estate strategy, and the impacts of hybrid work models on office space utilization. Here are some key takeaways and insights from the discussion:

Flex Work Policies and Utilization Tracking:

    • Many companies have adopted hybrid work policies requiring employees to be in the office 2-3 days a week, with flexibility on which days. Almost unanimously, leaders struggle against employee tendencies to work in office Tuesday-Thursday, leaving them to plan for peaks in the week with near-empty offices on Mondays and Fridays.
    • Utilization data, tracked through badge data and sensors, helps optimize office space and understand peak usage times (like Tuesdays and Thursdays) but this data has proved insufficient in driving optimizations and helping project future growth.
    • Challenges include ensuring desk space is used efficiently and managing expectations around workspace availability.

    Impact on Real Estate Strategy:

      • Companies have reduced office space significantly due to hybrid work, with some floors mothballed or subleased.
      • Lease negotiations have become more flexible, with shorter terms (3-5 years) and options to scale space based on fluctuating needs.
      • Workplace teams find themselves working in tandem with HR teams, leadership teams, finance, and real estate transaction teams more than ever before.

      Technology and Data Management:

        • There’s a trend towards integrating sophisticated tech stacks for space management, with a focus on internal ownership of data for better decision-making.
        • Challenges include ensuring data accuracy (e.g., avoiding badge misuse) and integrating various tech tools seamlessly.
        • Workplace managers are looking for tech features like generative AI for efficient space planning.

        Employee Engagement and Workplace Culture:

          • Leadership presence in offices plays a crucial role in employee attendance and engagement.
          • Traditional motivators like free food have lost appeal; instead, leadership presence and community integration are emphasized to attract employees back to the office.

          Future Office Space Design:

            • There’s a shift towards designing office spaces that emphasize flexibility and community, with amenities that enhance productivity beyond what employees have at home.
            • New constructions prioritize adaptability and flexibility as workplace designers realize the value of modular builds for the shifting world of work.

            Challenges and Adaptations:

              • Companies are grappling with the balance between reducing office space and meeting employee needs for collaborative and specialized workspaces.
              • There’s ongoing experimentation with different office models, from hoteling desks to neighborhood systems, to find the right fit for each organization.

              Overall, the discussion highlighted the complexities and opportunities brought by hybrid work models, emphasizing the importance of data-driven decision-making, flexible real estate strategies, and adaptive workplace cultures in the post-pandemic era.

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