Welcome to the March 2022 edition of WorkplaceBytes, a monthly post for workplace & property professionals where we curate the best bits of data analysis, industry news and commentary.
Big companies accelerate their return to office
After several attempts at reopening and getting people back to offices—were thwarted by surges of the Delta and Omicron variants of Covid-19—it looks like it’s finally happening…
The world’s largest companies are heading back into the office. And betting that this time it will stick.
Effective February 28, Chris Capossela, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Microsoft welcomed employees back to the office, writing in a blog post,
“Employees will have 30 days to make adjustments to their routines and adopt the working preferences they’ve agreed upon with their managers.”
Citigroup has asked vaccinated employees in all United States locations to start returning to the office the week of March 21, according to Reuters. They’re planning on a hybrid model with bankers working at least two days a week in their office.
And Google has told workers in its San Francisco Bay area offices that they’ll be expected to come back into the office on April 4 with most Googlers expected to be in the office three days a week.
So with the two-year mark since many businesses sent their office workers home fast approaching, what’s factoring into these decisions?
- High vaccination rates
- Declining hospitalizations and death
- Increased access and adoption of rapid testing
- Easing of city restrictions around masks and capacity limits
And a growing realization that it’s time to ‘live with’ the virus.
“With Omicron we realized that we needed to pivot from thinking about coming back into the office when Covid vanishes. We recognized we have to pivot to how do you responsibly cope with Covid?”
Said Sean Woodroffe, the head of human resources at major US insurance firm, TIAA.
A hybrid workplace might not solve the ‘flexibility standoff’ brewing between workers and bosses
While city officials around the world are rejoicing as companies firm up their plans to return to office, workers are blanching at the thought of the daily commute.
In fact, just 3% of white collar workers want to return to the office five days a week (source Advanced Workplace Associates).
Survey data from recruiting firm Korn Ferry, suggests that there is a fundamental asymmetry of interests between bosses and knowledge workers when it comes to their visions of the workplace. 53% of U.S. companies consider themselves either “fully office” of “mostly office” workplaces while 78% of knowledge workers want “location flexibility” and 72% are unhappy about their company’s current level of flexibility.
The hybrid workplace models every company seems to be adopting are the solution right?
This piece from Bloomberg explores the logistical nightmare and risks of a two-track workforce possible under hybrid models and why a fundamental re-think of ‘the office’ might serve both business and workers better.
You can’t cut the baby in half: Choosing a workplace orientation requires trade offs
Maria Roche and Andy Wu from Harvard Business Review share some skepticism of hybrid workplace models arguing that wavering on a workplace configuration isn’t advisable.There is no one size fits all solution. Instead managers ‘need to tailor their working environment to the business needs of their organization’ and not (as they somewhat gruesomely suggest) try “cutting the baby in half”.
In this guide, they propose a framework for workplace managers to determine how to structure their post-pandemic workplace based on company size and growth orientation.
The rise of of the ‘third space’
As companies try to find a balance between the dreaded return of long commutes and the desire for in-person collaboration, many are shifting their mindset away from the ‘centralized office hub’ and exploring third spaces to offer more flexibility to their workers.
A recent report by CBRE found that 38% of large enterprises surveyed who are already occupying flex space are using it to test alternate workspace or occupancy models giving them the agility to bounce between structures without being locked into constricting property contracts.
The re-birth of workspace design: An interview with Gensler CEO Diane Hoskins
- Do rows of open plan desks still cut it in a hybrid world?
- How do meeting rooms need to adapt to support colocated teams?
- How should companies reinvent their workplace to meet the changed needs of their team?
In this interview, Diane Hoskins, CEO of Gensler, explores the challenges organizations now face when it comes to how and where work is done, the role of the workplace, and how the design of the workplace needs to adapt in a changed world.
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