The hybrid working world is here, and it’s not going anywhere. The bosses who wanted staff in the office permanently have had to face the crushing realities of a pandemic, and adapt.
As a result, many offices are asking staff to come in infrequently to collaborate. While every company has a different journey, there are some ways to ensure that new office plans are a success.
UNLEASH caught up with Mark Caskey, CEO of Work Dynamics for EMEA at the real estate giant JLL, about how companies can utilize technology, leverage new modes of working, and leverage environmental initiatives.
Hybrid work and its benefits
Caskey outlines the current attitudes towards hybrid: “Our research tells us that 80% plus of employees want flexibility in how they work in the future or today and whether that’s where they work or how they work. “
“Now I would say the majority of companies, 82% from our latest research of companies, have actually implemented a flexible/hybrid work plan. It definitely is now more of the norm.”
Caskey outlines that the pandemic and more recent ‘Great Resignation‘ has seen employees’ perception of work change, and led to organizations re-evaluating their offering: “ Increasingly, employees are thinking about the workplace when they make choices around the companies they want to work for.
“That’s requiring a lot of companies now to start to really invest in their workplaces, whether it’s the quality of the workplace, whether its location or the environments that we’re providing because it’s really meaningful.
Caskey notes that the need for meaningful environments is being driven by employees.
This is supported by JLL’s data, Caskey explains: “Our latest research shows about 18% of employees would want to be in the office four to five days a week.
“Sometimes that’s driven by the work that they do, or sometimes their own personal preferences in terms of where they live, how they live. But notwithstanding it definitely is the minority.
“The general average of the employees that we’ve surveyed is now is three days a week in terms of how much time that they feel they would be like to be spending in the office, but their purpose for coming into the office is now very different to what it was pre-pandemic.”
Changing the function of a workplace
With a changing office schedule, there has also been a repurposing of space as well as a revaluation of the focus of areas.
Caskey shares his view on this: “There is an increasing amount of capital going into offices, buildings around regenerating or modernizing. That’s definitely one trend that we have seen as we come out of the pandemic.
“If we then think about the design of offices, pre-pandemic it was 70% plus or minus would have been desking, and 30% would have been collaboration space or amenity space.
Although Caskey doesn’t go as far as to say this trend has reversed, he does say offices now only have around 40% of space dedicated to desking.
This is partly because instead of being physically present to do administrative tasks, “generally, employees want to come into the office because they want to feel part of something. They want to be engaged. They want to be included. They want to have personal time with their manager which can be more beneficial than on a remote basis.
“They want to feel part of teams, they want to collaborate, they want to learn, they want to socialize, and they also want a solution.
“Sometimes complex problems, that’s often very difficult to do remotely. The reason why one would want to come back into the offices is changed, and that is influencing the design of space that we’re starting now to see.“
Sustainability, technology, and the office
However, it is not just a new working schedule that is impacting the shape of offices. Caskey outlines two areas.
First, “sustainability is having a real impact in terms of the design of offices. Our research shows 73% of employees now want a workplace that’s healthy, that’s sustainable, that brings to life the health and well-being aspects.”
Additionally, technology is increasingly playing a part in the office experience.
Caskey explains: “From a technology standpoint, as there are more and more property tech companies, there’s more investment going into technology. In creating that digital, frictionless user environment for an employee in a building, you’re now starting to see that really come through as part of the design of offices now and in the future.”
Caskey unpacks how tech and sustainability work together in spaces: “The design aspects of buildings now have more of a sustainable thread around it. That may be in terms of materials, or the circular economy aspects.
“Thinking about technologies to improve energy usage within the building, are coming through as part of sustainability codes in the design of new offices.
“Within that, what we’re then starting to see is a different configuration and layout of offices, as they’re being redesigned to get to the point which is less intense around desking and more around collaboration, social zones. “
Despite this, Caskey does draw attention to the time required for companies to make changes and the fact that offices will not be different overnight.
Workspace and culture
Talent is invested in technology and sustainability, and Caskey notes: “There’s a direct link between employees of the future talent. Future talent wants to be working with companies that have a clear purpose. Within that, their sustainability and environment, social and, governance (ESG) agendas are now very meaningful in terms of the choices that they make, when they join companies.”
On the back of this, Caskey reflects that when he interviews candidates he gets questions around JLL’s purpose or sustainability commitments.
Caskey adds: “It’s a really meaningful decision point when an employee makes a job choice around the company that they want to work with and to be proud for working for. The real estate itself is a key element within that.”
When it comes to culture, Caskey adds: “What definitely comes through with a lot of the companies that we work with and also the research that we do, is the link between the office environment and the culture of the company, which has arguably never been stronger.
“Significantly, the offices are a great vehicle to embody the way a company wants its culture to be seen, and to be communicated through the organization whether that’s in terms of their branding and messaging, or it’s in terms of how the space is designed to drive collaboration, and what the team ethics are within a building.”
HR and the future of the office
Considering how the pandemic has impacted HR, Caskey notes that hybrid work is unifying talent management, technology, and real estate.
Caskey concludes on the positive elements these three functions being joined can bring: “That trifecta of bringing together the HR, the technology and the real estate thinking in terms of the offices of the future, that community working as one will always lead to the best outcomes on behalf of any organization. “
The only left thing to do is look at how you’re addressing these three elements.