Several trends are emerging when it comes to considering new office space. One of the clearest trends emerging from the pandemic and resulting lockdowns was the untethering of staff from the office. People experienced less time commuting, more time connecting through technology and rethinking their work/life balance.
There’s a consensus that hybrid remote working will likely persist long term. Emerging evidence suggests that most workers will still want to work in the office, typically three days per week.
Stockland’s national leasing manager, Workplace & Logistics, Charlotte Stratton, offered her views on what kind of features, services and inclusions businesses are seeking out in the modern workplace. These can be broken down into three main categories that dictate the predominate needs of employers: being in-person, remote working or hybrid situations.
In-person workplace delivery is fundamentally about workplace design, for example:
Optimising the workplace’s layout and functions, including change management,
Service and experience strategies including implementing of hospitality and amenities,
A mix of collaboration, recreation and socialisation spaces
Technology solutions both for staff communication and also building services
A breath of fresh air
When it comes to attracting staff back to the office, there must be compelling reasons to do so – especially in times of historically low unemployment. “We need to reward our staff for making the commute,” Charlotte Stratton says. “We need to offer something more than they have at home.
“We find that access to fresh air and healthy food, as well as wellness initiatives are highly desirable. Balconies are highly prized, as are spaces for exercise, collaboration and community. The office has to be really exciting and dynamic. It needs to have a buzz.”
Likewise for remote working, employers are relying heavily on technology to help streamline and enhance the remote working experience. Typically, leading employers will have remote office set-up guidelines to align with their occupational health and safety policies. Remote staff need correct workstation configurations, collaborative technologies for work and also for interpersonal needs to ensure remote socialisation with colleagues.
“COVID-19 really accelerated workplace flexibility, creating structural changes around how we work,” says Charlotte. “Technology has of course been central to the way we can work remotely. Technology at the main office also plays a key role. Things such as touchless entry points and data tracking of staff to manage movements in case of any outbreak. We can assist our customers with those types of initiatives.”
The hybrid model fuses technology tools on both sides of home and office. Best practices should be streamlined so staff are familiar with the same platforms in either space. Some change management needs to be implemented in order to optimise new universal processes, namely through training. In office, we are seeing a lot more importance placed on managing and booking meeting room spaces.
Hybrid's here to stay
It’s clear there has been a substantial shift away from office-only to the hybrid working model since COVID-19, with the majority of work taking place from the office and the remainder from home. Pre-COVID-19, the bulk of companies had an ‘office-first’ approach, with an office-first hybrid model following next-closely. In the post-COVID-19 landscape, the model has ‘flipped’ with a very similar amount of companies preferring or accepting an office-first hybrid model and a greatly reduced ‘office-first’ approach.
Flexible working arrangements have altered the need for office space, and its configuration. All businesses differ, but it’s accepted that flexible working has reduced the number of fixed desks and increased the need for shared working and collaboration spaces.
Not only is there more flexibility in workplace design arrangements, there’s a growing need to provide leasing flexibility for our customers. “We are able to help our partners flex-up or flex-down,” Charlotte says. “’Core and flex’ arrangements come into play, where customers have some space they can commit to on a pretty traditional long-term basis, and then a portion of space that is much more flexible.”