The effects of the pandemic have certainly played a pivotal role in determining what future office space will look like. However, one thing appears to be certain: office buildings/space, by all accounts, will continue to serve a critical function for companies re-thinking their future strategies within a globally competitive marketplace.
While COVID-19 has definitely accelerated the trend for working at home, it has also revealed its limitations in some industry sectors, where organizations success will still depend on face-to-face interaction, collaboration, sense of place and company culture. With universal flexible working options, the office could become a virtual anchor in attracting, retaining and nurturing top talent. Workspace can play a really significant part on how people perceive a business; enable job seekers to see first hand how the company values its staff members. The office arguably has an even more important role in providing learning/training opportunities for new/younger employees. Many corporate executives believe that developing its people within its workforce is not just formal training, but all other types of interactions. There still is a lot to be gained from being together as a team.
Prior to the COVID-19 lockdown, many organizations had already started shrinking office footprints thinking perhaps they don’t need 100% of the space for their employees, perhaps only 60-75%. The pandemic definitely accelerated that trend proving that many companies and industries can indeed work and benefit from working virtually from home or a satellite location.
What makes COVID-19 such a strange phenomenon is that its immediate impact pushed some organizations in the opposite direction (more space per employee). Many companies have been squeezing more and more staff into smaller floor plates for a long time. For offices to re-open safely and maintain physical distancing, floor plate ratios will need to increase again incorporating shifts/staggered start times while continuing remote working.
While this debate continues to linger on, the demand for office space, its primary focus and function, will continue to change and evolve. What is definitely apparent coming out of this pandemic is that that a hybrid workplace strategy is something that is here to stay. What real estate experts and workplace strategists are saying is it isn’t an either/or scenario, that working from home is better than working in the office or vice versa. But it’s how to capture the best of both worlds in a hybrid strategy, recognizing that if you have work where you require quiet or need to be isolated (if you want to be isolated), you’re going to work from home. As far as working in an office environment: more and more company executives believe it is really providing the opportunity to build and preserve company culture. If you have people working in the office for two, two and a half days a week, enabling them to feel very connected to the vision and the mission of the organization is really important. Other vital aspects of a healthy and productive culture include: learning/training; coaching; mentoring; building authentic relationships; building trust; ideation and innovation. These are all critical things that primarily happen through spontaneous and unplanned interactions in the workplace.
By building an attractive workplace, companies are creating an environment that will foster those types of behaviors and enable businesses to compete and to be successful. So, it isn’t just about getting the talent, attracting the talent to come into the office. It’s because the success of your firm is dependent upon it. Real estate and industry executives won’t know the true impact to companies that have been shedding all of their office space for another six months,12 months or 18 months. Many fear that some company officials may look back and say they perhaps lost one of our most valuable assets, which was the “special sauce” of our company culture.
Another concern plaguing many companies is how to address where employees are showing up in the virtual workplace. Many industry consultants are actually working with their clients to create a very intentional strategic plan, essentially a culture campaign that enables those organizations to create a consistent employee experience no matter where they’re showing up every day. Regardless of what companies decide to do with that hybrid strategy, consultants are advising is that they make sure that they have an intentional strategy; proactively managing it. Workplace strategists further advise that every organization has their own DNA. It is so important about creating a sense of place: integrating culture/brand; how you express that through creativity and the emotional connection between people working from home/office.
Many have term the phrase “phygital” space: combination of physical/virtual work space integrated with company culture. Having all the features and benefits/amenities working from home or the office.
As office and building space continues to evolve and align with market trends, CAM, Inc. will continue to be flexible in addressing office user and tenants needs in a sustainable and proactive manner.
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