As remote work has become the new way of working over the last few months, conventional wisdom dictating where and how people work has been upended.

The pandemic has raised new questions about how occupiers could think more progressively about the workplace’s role in supporting the enterprise. These times are illustrative of the different needs of every worker. No longer will a traditional office-based approach to providing real estate meet the needs of employees.

“The key in the coming years is going to be real estate solutions that honor the differences between employees; it’s pretty clear what that is…it’s work from anywhere.”

Jamie Hodari, Industrious

In many ways, the pandemic has become a great equalizer for remote workers. Remote workers no longer struggle to carry the same equity in conversations and decision-making as their in-office counterparts — and they no longer feel subordinate to their office-focused counterparts.

Office-based employees hope this collective experience will accelerate their access to more remote-working options. Most widely circulated surveys, including Colliers’ International recent Remote Work Survey, noted that 80% of respondents said they would like to work from home at least once a week. In light of this, it will likely be incumbent upon companies to enable their employees to work from a more diverse range of settings.

This will call for more optionality and choice of offices. Many predict the concept of office centricity is ending, and a new era of choice-based work will drive the future.

To facilitate a choice-based working strategy, occupiers must transition from a fixed/traditional portfolio composition to a more agile, distributed portfolio approach. The tenets of flexibility and choice are at the center of the new optimized real estate strategy.

The panelists identified a tapestry approach that can be accomplished through a varying mix of:

HQs – flagship offices (the ‘hubs’) in key markets that facilitate large gatherings, meetings, and group-based work, are designed to express a company’s culture.
Satellites – regional and suburban offices (the ‘spokes’) that enable small- to medium-sized teams to work together and avoid long commutes.
“People realize that working from home is not a panacea. And in fact, it’s really quite difficult to do. They are looking to escape the home office, to have a place close to home, but not at home that avoids a commute.”

John Arenas, Serendipity Labs

Flex/On-Demand Spaces – network access to on-demand flex/coworking spaces for individuals or small groups to book as needed for the hour, day, or week.
Work from Home / Virtual – telecommuting technology and infrastructure that enables employees to work productively at home.
A key tactic will be to align the business demands for types of space to supply and workplace strategies to provide the appropriate balance between fixed, variable, and remote work.

The speakers suggested that the future workplace will create consistent experiences across HQs, satellite offices, drop-in spaces, and work-from-home options. Whether it is through the bundling of spaces or workplace services, operators are focused on fostering harmony across these different workplace types. This will form the basis for a platform that accommodates multiple types of spaces.

“The future is hybrid. It’s no longer enough to run physical spaces well – you need to bring that premium experience to the digital world, so employees stay engaged no matter where they are.”

Ryan Simonetti, Convene

What this could mean for…

Building Owners: A single operator might seek to deliver the full stack of meeting spaces, coworking spaces, flex spaces, and other amenity spaces.

“It’s key for us to be able to provide a single point of contact that helps companies analyze their portfolio and think through how to move from flex to traditional and back to flex as things change.”

Thais Galli, Tishman Speyer

Employers: A workplace platform based on diverse options that align with employee and business needs. The options, in aggregate, will provide for both physical workspaces and virtual office services.

Employees: A unified workplace platform to access workplace services and, if needed, book on-demand space.

For the foreseeable future, high standards for health and safety will be commonplace to stay competitive for workspace providers. Integrated partnerships between building owners and workspace operators will be critical to establishing a clean and healthy user experience.

Flexible workspace operators, which were previously focused on providing impactful cost savings through more densely allocated spaces, are now focused on de-densifying their workspaces, with many reducing capacity levels for certain work areas by as much as 50%.

Well-being initiatives will now be emphasized and seen as differentiators in supporting the workplace community. Health and safety initiatives will include heightened levels of cleaning/sanitation, ventilation, social distancing, and now select mental health services to members. As occupiers plan for re-entry, strong health and safety measures will be baseline necessities for operators.

“People will have baseline expectations around what coming back into the office looks like and what they should expect from their employers or workspace providers.”

Beth Moore, WeWork

Choice, distributed options, an integrated platform, and commitment to providing a safe environment will be dominant trends for corporate real estate professionals to plan and manage over the near-to-medium term.

At Colliers International, We welcome the opportunity to help you find the right office space for your business. Contact Parker Levy with Colliers International at 704-307-2737.