MAKING THE DIFFERENCE: PERSPECTIVES FOR OUR RETURNING TENANTS IN THE HYBRID ERA
Experts at the Society of Human Resource Management estimate “the number of totally remote U.S. workers will double to roughly 36 million people by 2025, but that will still only account for a little over 20% of the workforce.” For tenants returning to the office (whether fully in-person or in hybrid fashion) from a remote strategy, their list of occupancy needs may begin to look increasingly more project-oriented – more meeting rooms, more lounge areas, more technology. But the human factor is underneath it all: the feeling of wellness, the feeling of local pride and connection, trustworthiness, and friendship. With our region boasting some of the happiest (read: well, proud, and friendly) cities in America, KC employers should know that those office refresh projects will be worth the risk for long term retention and innovation success.
As we enter a third year of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s expected to be much closer to “normal” than any false start of the last 24 months. Early 2022 has already shown a great vigor in the return of our in-person social habits, from near sold-out concerts to a strong crowd at Kansas City’s annual Big XII basketball tournament, its first return to its fan base in over 2 years.
For those of us working in the corporate real estate industry, a majority of our clients and business partners returning to their real estate footprints. A recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests over 80% of the market is predicted to utilize their office space this year in some level of capacity, and a 40% drop in companies enacting fully remote strategies from 2021 to now.
In a hybrid model, the days and times people go into the office will vary, so they will be less likely to bump into one another — especially people outside their immediate teams. A concerning element of a hybrid work model is the knowledge transfer between exiting senior employees and leadership with younger staff (who may have even begun their employment journey as a remote team member) with little to no relationships developed among key personnel. A solution for these concerns could be relatively simple, such as providing flexible touch-down spaces that can spur an impromptu mentorship conversation or a white boarding session to solve a quick problem.
Other key issues like establishing equity in presence between remote and in-person teams can initially seem more complex, though increasing workplace technologies offer a growing number of ways to connect the physical and the digital. Specifically, using voice-activated video conferencing technology, to offering spaces of respite and privacy in the office, to outfitting home offices with the same ergonomic benefits and identity as the corporate home base.
These days, a company’s real estate is representative of its ideals, and communicates a visual language of its mission by the way it functions. In short, a company’s office can make-or-break its favorability in today’s candidate’s market:
“Nobody is so deeply steeped into the knowledge of what is happening with people right now than human resources professionals,” says George Rivera with Society for Human Resource Management’s Enterprise Solutions division in a recent article by Steelcase. “HR is trying to solve for mental health and wellbeing, and collaboration and connection which leads to innovation. These are significant HR and workplace challenges.”
You could say that if employment is the biggest factor affecting corporate office real estate, culture is the strongest driver of employment. A recent survey conducted by Steelcase and the Society for Human Resource Management reports 54% of office-using respondents feel their company culture has suffered in the last 2 years, labeling it as “okay”. (Who wants to work for “okay”?) Further, almost 20% of respondents consider their company culture “not great” and “eroded”.
All of this to say, as increasing numbers of businesses enact more permanent policies surrounding where their people work, we need to better coach our clients on how they define their approach to hybrid work. It is our responsibility to ensure that the combination of real estate decisions and workplace solutions operates in tandem with the human-centered goals of the business, for bottom-line longevity and culture that demands top talent.
Further, as people become more deliberate about when and why they come to the office, they will have new expectations about the space and tools they need. Our leading organizations know this to be true, and are responding by redesigning their spaces to better support the multifaceted styles of hybrid work and creating experiences that drive a culture of trust and a sense of community, which we can never have enough of in times like these.
Here’s what others are saying about the Hybrid Office:
Market Development | Real Estate & Development
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