We at YES! are still in a phase of cautious optimism, planning the Return to Office and the Hybrid Workforce. Others have been back to the office for nearly a year, in some capacity. Still, others are now all-in on the return, and excited to see and interact with their colleagues, clients and service providers.
What we do acknowledge is a transition to hybrid work models will take years to perfect, not weeks or months.
Solving for “Flex” – Employees want Choices
Pivot. Planning. Transition.
Based on a Microsoft Work Trend Index Report (Feb. 2020 to Feb. 2021), 40% of the global workforce is considering leaving their jobs. 40. Percent. Globally. This is a huge, global pivot.
In fact, in what is being termed “The Great Resignation”, more than 4 million people quit their jobs in the US in April 2021, only 18% of which were hospitality-industry related.
Findings by The Leesman Index, on Workplace 2021 Report, cited “…48,413 (global) employees also told us how they saw themselves distributing their time between home and office post-COVID in the future. 85% stated a preference for a blended workplace model which includes remote work for at least two days per week.”
In contrast to the findings above, in a recent McKinsey survey 88% of C-suite executives expect employees to be in the office at least 3 days per week. (52% expect four or more days a week).
Therein lies the disconnect.
Planning and continuous iteration of a mix of work modes is elemental to the success of the next normal. This is a monumental shift, shattering decades of established practices.
The transition will take considerable dedication and patience. Staying flexible with your plans, taking the pulse of employees and users will remain the foundation of employee retention.
Consider employees’ revised lifestyle choices that influence their return to the office or preference for remote work. Commute times and cost, childcare requirements, number of people working from home simultaneously, training and mentorship, naming just a few.
Take the Long View – Years not Months
Think of this as a once-in-a-generation set of opportunities, challenges, anxieties and solutions. The transition will be fluid, in the best case, and will take us years, not months, to achieve a sense of stability. Again, we reference Leesman for a thoughtful, 4-stage Action plan to manage the transition: 1-Understand employees’ home work settings; 2- Consider how an employees’ role dictates their workplace needs; 3- Factor in individual vs collaborative work; 4- Know what your office offers (and doesn’t).
Employers are fighting against the ease of working from home vs. an inspiring and energizing office experience. Competition for talent is only increasing. Do your office amenities match employees’ elevated expectations?
Yes, Amenities are the New Mantra in multiple Real Estate Sectors
Amenities, Amenities, Amenities. Nearly every sector of real estate is embracing this mantra.
Extended-stay hotels have incorporated outdoor patios and barbeques where guests can make their own meals and entertain others. Hotels of all profiles have ditched the old, dreary “business center” in favor of the lobby-as-coworking, as lounge, as cafe, as event space concept.
Suburban malls are reinventing themselves as “Lifestyle Centers”, incorporating live, work, play, with a focus on creating a destination. (Think Macerich partnering with Industrious in Fashion Square in Scottsdale). In metro Chicago, Hawthorn Mall in Vernon Hills will incorporate apartments above retail in a redevelopment of the former Sears and Carson Pirie Scott stores, expanding into the parking are for a walkable, “neighborhood” within the mall. Partnering with a flexible workspace operator will be a critical component to fulfill the “work” vision within the live, work, play model for Hawthorn Mall.
In the past 7 years, we’ve discussed incorporating flexible workspaces and coworking into apartment developments. In our experience, residential tenants are a captive audience for high-level amenity coworking spaces. These tenants will crave the opportunity to work alongside other people, especially if they are remote workers, when there is 2 feet of snow outside and cabin fever is raging. (did we mention we’re Chicago -based?)
Which amenities now? A sense of “destination” is a key concept. With the advent of Clubhouse, Instagram, videoconferencing and podcasting, we advocate for incorporating content studios in flexible workspace developments as revenue-generating, in-demand amenities. Regardless of your climate, having substantial outdoor space that can accommodate a minimum of 25 people will also generate interest and event revenue potential. These are just two of the trends we see having a substantial impact on workspace preferences.
The Future is Flex (and Hybrid)
With all the options of “space experience” above, how can you optimize your office environment to entice and retain employees to work from the office? What if preferences change in, say 2023?
In a few words: coworking and flexible office operators.
Flexible workspaces are seeing a surge in demand from companies realigning their employee in-office schedules. Creating opportunities for employees to work from home, come to the “mothership” and opt for a close-to-home/eliminate-the-long-commute productive space is where the hybrid solution is thriving.
If you’ve truly been out of touch over the past 10 years, let’s give you some details.
These spaces are specifically designed for productivity and an all-in-one “instant” workspace. There are both downtown and suburban option in primary and secondary metro areas. The tertiary cities (think Knoxville, TN) also offer opportunities for flexible work options. Terms are as short as a day (day passes) or can be allocated as short as 3 months, in some cases, for a full-time office.
There are multiple choices for a productive work experience: Day Passes; Meeting Rooms; Assigned Desking; Full-time, Dedicated Offices. For start-up businesses, many flexible workspaces offer the use of a business address (licensing that is NOT your home address) and package receipt. (business travel anyone?) They are a hospitality-focused business, guiding guests to the reserved space, assisting with technology access and certainly, having the excellent coffee available at all times. We see an acceleration of 30% industry growth from 2021 levels by 2023. There will be more choices for more users.
Stability by 2026? Really?
Yes. There are a lot of moving pieces which are unpredictable. We anticipate a 5-year timeline to reach a sense of stability and stronger understanding of how and when (and where) people are their most productive. More studies will emerge, more models will appear and disappear and ways of working that we cannot even imagine today will be revealed. (coworking in a SpaceX rocket?)