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Is now the time to reduce your real estate footprint?
Since the pandemic, the way that we expect to work has changed for good. A standout trend is that employees are reluctant to return to the office full-time and there are a whole host of reasons as to why this is.
A recent report from the McKinsey Global Institute, found that around half (52%) of employees now prefer to blend time in the office with working from home: either through a split-week model, alternating week to week, or choosing what works best for them on any given day. Similarly, research from Ipsos for the World Economic Forum found that 66% of workers globally indicated that they wanted to work flexibly when the Covid-19 pandemic is completely over – and almost a third said they would consider looking for another job if they were forced to go back to the office full-time.
In a bid to encourage people back to the workplace, we have already seen a number of big-name brands rethink their vast footprint with the intention of optimizing their portfolio with fewer square feet. Ride-hailing giant Lyft is ditching around 45% of its 615,000 square feet of office space across San Francisco, New York City, Seattle and Nashville. Deloitte has reduced its footprint in London, exiting one of its locations at the prestigious New Street Square.
But what do employees make of this potential shift from solely operating in big city center offices to smaller suburban work hubs? And what is the best approach to office planning amid the new world of work?
A flexible workforce
We have seen that a greater number of professionals are now choosing to work flexibly, particularly when it comes to where they are able to work from. To put this into perspective, our very own survey of 3,000 employees working across Europe discovered that before the pandemic, 73% of staff were entirely office based, while just 1% worked from home and the remaining 26% operated in a hybrid way. However, at the time of our survey, just 26% were working full-time on-site and 13% were working remotely, with the majority (63%) working in a hybrid set-up.
Have offices been made redundant?
As organizations increasingly choose to reconsider large, expensive city center spaces, it is important to pause and truly understand the long-term impact this strategy can have on existing and potential employees. Of the office workers we surveyed, the majority (63%) agreed that they like the location of their current workplace. Our respondents also seemed to value the benefits of communal working, with 77% indicating that it was easier to bond with and get to know colleagues in the office.
It is also worth noting, though, that 79% of our sample admitted that they would be happier to work from the office if it was just five to 10 minutes away from their home, suggesting that the introduction of satellite offices could boost presenteeism, engagement and staff retention. What these figures do tell us is that the physical office is certainly here to stay.
As Lawrence Mohiuddine, EMEA CEO at Unispace explains, “The advantages of working collectively shouldn’t be underestimated. In a post-pandemic world, workers are craving the human contact that they may have taken for granted pre-Covid. With 79% of respondents admitting they would be happier to return to the office if it was just five to 10 minutes from home, creating satellite offices to supplement an amenity-packed HQ could be a logical approach for firms seeking to meet the diverse needs of their people post-pandemic.”
Regan Donoghue, Senior Principal, Workplace Strategy at Unispace adds, “Organizations should look to balance employees’ desire to work closer to home with their need to work collaboratively by creating localized spaces. This could mean a re-think of a selection of current workspaces or total footprint. By taking this approach, businesses can ensure that their people have access to spaces with attractive facilities and room to entertain clients when demand dictates, alongside local spaces that provide the collaboration and socialization that employees miss when working remotely.”
Ultimately, flexibility and choice are the engines of change driving the future of work – and we believe that this agility should be extended to office spaces. Employees have had the chance to reassess their priorities when work from home guidance was in place and many now want more from their lives than hours spent every week commuting to an office place that isn’t conducive to creativity and productivity.
That said, many people do appreciate traveling to the office, not least to create a boundary between their personal and professional lives. What employees don’t seem to enjoy, though, is a long, tiring, expensive journey into work every day, only to be greeted by an unfamiliar space.
Interested in finding out how you can optimize your real estate footprint in the new world of work? Download our latest report The real estate dilemma.