The COVID-19 pandemic forced businesses across the United States to adopt a remote work model, which led a lot of executives to consider implementing a full-time telework policy after the pandemic. Meanwhile, other companies like Twitter have already put such policies in place. The embrace of remote work led some in the commercial real estate industry to wonder if the days of businesses operating out of a physical office were over.
According to recent JLL report that involved 3,000 employees from different industries worldwide, in-office operations are far from meeting their demise. At the same time, remote working isn’t going anywhere either. The future for a lot of companies will be a hybrid model where employees will work both at the office and remotely after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our research reveals that in-office work and remote work are complementary when it comes to achieving human performance,” JLL said in its report, COVID-19 IMPACT: offices will find a new purpose. “Each way of working brings its own value, but neither can replace the other. In the post-pandemic workplace, combining and leveraging the best of both will become the ‘new normal.’ Across that journey, the challenge for all enterprises will center on establishing the right mix and balance between the different settings and working patterns.”
Businesses will have to be flexible
For a hybrid work environment to be effective, companies will have to realize there’s no, “one size fits all” approach. Companies will have to consider their company’s culture and well as their industry trends to determine what their ideal hybrid model would look like. Making that determination will depend a lot on what roles can be done remotely as well as each company’s talent profiles and expectations.
Physical office spaces are still in demand
There are plenty of people who have enjoyed the perks of working remotely, but almost 60% JLL’s survey respondents said they missed the office “substantially.”
“Our research shows that, now and in the future, an organization’s success and ability to innovate will still largely depend on face-to-face interaction, in-person collaboration and serendipity,” JLL said in its report. “What’s more, most people can’t, or don’t want to, work entirely remotely. Therefore, the office will remain an irreplaceable source of human connection and inspiration and a place where conditions are ripe for innovation.”
The reasons the survey respondents wanted to return to the office varied by demographics and industries. For example, almost 70% of technology industry workers showed a stronger desire to come back to the office. The amenities tech offices are known for were likely a main driver for employees’ desire to return. Meanwhile, a significant portion (65%) of young employees wanted to return compared to other age groups because they felt they were getting less managerial support and struggled to contribute in the same way they did when they were at the office.
“These findings demonstrate that both in-office and remote work, and in-person as well as digital interactions, must form complementary components of the future workplace,” JLL wrote.
Employees want human interaction
Social connections were the main reason employees missed their office, according to JLL’s survey (44%). Employees felt virtual tools have helped ensure work still gets done, but they are not a replacement for the human interactions that occur in an office environment. Survey respondents said they missed face-to-face work (29%) and informal communications (25%)
“This highlights the limits to an increasingly ‘touchless’ world while demonstrating that a substantial part of work and our relationships cannot be maintained purely remotely,” JLL said. “As social animals we need physical places where we can relate to others, share ideas and feel part of a living, breathing community.”
What a hybrid work environment means for CRE
It’s great news for CRE owners that there are employees and businesses that want to get back to an in-office work environment, even if it’s not full-time. There are a few things CRE owners will have to take care of so the hybrid experience works well for their tenants however. The first is having a reliable in-building wireless network. If a tenant has some employees working in the office while others are remote, there’s a good chance they’ll be relying on videoconferencing to conduct meetings. Strong connectivity is also important just in terms of in-office workers being able to use their Internet-connected devices like cell phones and laptops without an issue.
CRE owners should also plan for tenants wanting to adjust their floor plans. Even as the pandemic subsides, tenants may want to keep some distance between their employees. Tenants may also not need as much space if part of their staff is working elsewhere every day. CRE owners should be prepared for potential lease renegotiations, as tenants will want to only pay for the space they’re actually using.
“(Corporations) will have to redefine their real estate footprint in order to make the best of each world: home-offices, co-working places, satellite offices and the (headquarters),” JLL wrote. “The future footprint will be a hybrid model, leveraging distributed and liquid spaces. It will include ‘Core & Flex’ – a combination of long and short-term engagements, as well as urban and suburban solutions.”
Joe Dyton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.