Today, many companies are not returning to work on-site due to the pandemic. Many companies don't know what their workplace will look like in the future, and this has led to a lot of unused office space around the world.
According to JLL, a company that helps the real estate sector, rents are still at a very low level: uncertainty and recession are not conducive to leases. There is a slight recovery from the same period last year, but we are far from pre-pandemic levels. If it's a lift, JLL says in its predictions released in November, is the lightest there is.
The big names show us that times have changed
They had planned to resume at full speed by mid-2021, and instead the big companies have come to terms with reality. Apple did slip (for now) the return in February 2022. It is not the first postponement, and it is not the first company to postpone, but there are those who go further.
In August REI co-op, a historic American company (founded in 1938) in the sportswear sector, with sales of 3 billion dollars in 2020, announced its intention to sell a new, newly purchased and unused location, and to want a more decentralized approach. It is not alone: other companies that have always discouraged employees from working from home are completely changing their paradigm. What happens now?
What does an agile workforce look like?
In a hybrid workplace where some workers are in offices while others work remotely, physical workspace is simply less needed and leases are often not renewed.
Globally, the numbers show that companies are starting to understand what an agile workforce looks like, and how hybrid offices can function. The data (anonymous, they say) on the employment of anonymous sensors in the workplace of a company called Freespace they say that in the US the use of collaboration spaces has increased, from 10% in September to 13% in October, also highlighting a slight trend towards shared workspaces. Let's see if it will consolidate.
Also Freespace lets us know that meeting room usage is now at its highest rate since 2019. This shows that when people walk into the office it is increasingly for face-to-face meetings. If they have to work alone, so much the better at home.
Other element: more companies are subletting their offices as the workforce becomes more agile, according to a report by Cushman & Wakefield. Another sign that the amount of empty space in offices is very, very significant.
How will the offices evolve?
A necessary premise (which also applies to the hasty commentators of social networks, who read the title but not the post and start in the fourth with the sentences like "there are jobs that cannot be carried out remotely!" But no ... seriously?) . The workplace is not dead, it has just been rethought. OBVIOUSLY some jobs can't be done remotely, just as other workers lack the benefits and experiences of face-to-face work. Again: an employee can more easily manage the "operational work" remotely. But (for example) a marketing strategy requires collaboration, which is better suited to in-person meetings.
This is why, on balance, when the pandemic ends, almost 70% of employees it will work primarily on a physical site. Which? Choose: an office, a branch (perhaps smaller or more decentralized?), A shop, a warehouse, a factory. I don't say it: the Future Enterprise Resiliency & Spending Survey, an IDC follow-up conducted in July.
Offices of the future for a hybrid world: let's see how Google behaves
Some companies have a hybrid work environment. They have people who work from home and people going to the office. When workers feel more comfortable working from home, they need less office space. This is why several companies are moving towards smaller spaces or flexible spaces to manage more employees. Let's see the example of a Big company that has dictated the law in recent years in terms of working spaces. How does Google behave?
Google is making changes in the way their offices are organized in some pilot locations across San Francisco, New York, London and Dublin. Start small to see how it goes - change some office layouts to see what works best.
For example is creating rooms called "Team Pods". They have all the elements of a traditional office space, but can be easily modified with furniture and dividing arrangements to support focused work, collaboration, or both.
Another solution: of the rooms "Camp", "Campfire". As the name suggests, they allow multiple people to sit in a semicircle and share multiple displays.
Where the weather and local conditions allow, Google also tests new ones outdoor work spaces, such as the one called "Camp Charleston" in Mountain View, California. Take a look at the photo here.
Another reflection of this transformation will be that, given the "flight" of tenants in the offices, the owners will try to attract them by improving the quality of spaces and services. They will design their buildings to be as attractive as possible, including to secure financially stable tenants. A trend towards a 'qualitative leap'.
Employers also know that employees care more about their well-being now: they know that people are leaving for this reason. And they give more flexibility and better spaces to keep the staff they have and attract new people. This trend will continue.
There will be offices in which a concierge or concierge service will be offered to employees as a plus. The flexibility will also show us in post-pandemic times that a professional starts a meeting in person and ends it on his cell phone, because in the meantime he has rushed to pick up his son from school.
Health First of all
Another trend? Obviously that of health in the workplace. Health and a sense of safety directly affect productivity. A Harvard study published in September shows that an efficient ventilation system improves the cognitive abilities of workers. It's not about green certifications - it's about employees who get sick less often and have clearer ideas as they work.
Factors such as indoor air quality, offices with few points of contact (automatic doors, dispensers, etc.), cleanliness and airy spaces will be very important. I know I'm not exaggerating by saying that these (once) "details" will make the difference between companies that thrive and others that fail.
Offices in the world of the near future will change, and their logic of use will change. They will be less gloomy if possible, wider and more versatile, and hopefully populated with healthier people. Under these conditions, perhaps working (in presence or remotely) will be more enjoyable than before.