COVID cases have dropped, the world has reopened – and so have most office buildings – but there’s plenty of confusion about what that means for employees. Corporate real estate leaders and space planners hope to increase office occupancy through the accommodation of new ways of working and facilitate smooth return to office plans.
An April survey by real estate management giant CBRE solicited input from 185 executives with US Portfolios. CBRE published the report titled Spring 2022 U.S. Office Occupier Sentiment Survey.
Among the highlights were the focus on office presence and prioritizing space sharing. What follows are five suggestions CBRE advisors have for executives to demonstrate the value of the office to their employees.
1. COMMUNICATE STRATEGIES WITH EMPLOYEES
Whether it’s in-person, remote, hybrid, or shybrid, companies need to properly communicate their return to office plans to employees. Sixty-five percent of corporate leaders believe a decisive and consistent executive messaging on leadership expectations will facilitate a better return to office.
Google, for instance, said they expect employees to return to the office three days a week with two days of remote work. Other companies such as Tesla are requiring employees to spend a minimum of 40 hours a week in the office. These executive missives, reported on by national media outlets, have paved the way for smaller organizations to follow.
2. SOLO DECISIONS WON’T FLY
While the C-suite is the one calling the shots on emerging workplace challenges, they require the buy-in of HR teams, office managers, and facilities leaders. During our time away from the office, headcounts changed, the space required for each employee has remained in flux, and people prioritized healthcare needs that require exemptions and other logistics. Fifty-eight percent of executives are hyper-focused on collaboration efforts with cross-departmental leaders on targeted strategies for a return to the office, CBRE reported.
3. EQUITABLE HYBRID STRATEGY REQUIRES TECHNOLOGY
With more companies leaning in on hybrid strategies to meet employee needs, it’s crucial that heads of workplaces incorporate technology into their return to office strategy to keep executives and employees connected. Forty-six percent of corporate leaders are planning to work with technology departments to deliver a more equitable hybrid working experience through enhanced video conferencing according to the survey.
4. STRENGTHEN COVID PROTOCOLS
As we work to figure out the new norm, 40% of companies will continue to require vaccinations, testing, and masking along with various other protocols (CBRE). For example, Netflix is requiring all employees and visitors to be fully vaccinated before returning to the office. COVID policies are lessening but the impact of the pandemic will continue to affect workplace norms for some time.
5. MAKE THE OFFICE EXPERIENCE UNIQUE
Many employees enjoy the flexibility that hybrid and remote working provides them. They now have more time to pursue their hobbies or spend time with family. Who would want to give that up to sit in a boring office building all day?
In order to lure employees back into the office, CBRE reported that 36% of corporations will curate events or other work experiences that are unique to the office. Medicare plan comparison platform Clear Match Medicare has introduced a free lunch program where employees have access to food trucks each day of the week. Google has announced that their office amenities and perks such as fitness centers, full shuttle services, and game rooms will be back as a part of their return to office plans.
RESHAPING THE OFFICE
Corporate leaders across the nation are reimagining office spaces of all sizes to create unique experiences. According to the CBRE report, 53% of respondents are considering adopting occupancy sensors. Executives plan to utilize technology to drive more consumer-oriented experiences for employees and encourage them to return to the office.
Many corporations are already getting creative, turning unused conference rooms into new common areas for employees, for example. Salesforce is clearing desks from vacant conference rooms and replacing them with couches and televisions to create spaces for teams to collaborate. Some companies are taking drastic measures to make the return to work appealing for employees even if that means relocating their offices to be closer to where their employees live. Software development studio, Ustwo, just recently moved its New York City office from Manhattan to Dumbo where most of its employees live in order to cut commute time. The new office was smaller and also better suited for employees, providing them with an open-air rooftop with Wi-Fi for meetings.
Companies can use space utilization software from Lambent – with or without new sensor installations – to measure occupancy and evaluate and reorganize their spaces. When using software, operations teams can visualize their space in a format that can be easily understood, and apply historical overlays to see predictive use cases. Lambent is helping companies like Boston Scientific understand when spaces are occupied or not occupied to help forecast new property investments. Using spatial analytics, we are able to aid space planners by showing them where underutilized spaces exist based on usage over time.
Alex Trotto contributes to the Blog and Social Media channels for Lambent. She is currently a Northeastern University student in her sophomore year.