October: WorkplaceBytes

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Welcome to the October 2021 edition of WorkplaceBytes, a monthly post for workplace & property professionals where we curate the best bits of data analysis, industry news and commentary.

OCT 2021

Resignations surge as employees refuse to return to the office

Resignations in Ireland surged last month as offices reopened and employers began demanding employees return to the workplace, according to Sigmar Recruitment, which has reported record job placement numbers for September.

“The great return is causing a mass exodus,” claimed Robert Mac Giolla Phádraig, founding director of the agency.

“This last 18 months has seen employees demand greater flexibility. The request to return to the office by employers in September has prompted employees to reconsider whether they recommit or resign. Many are resigning,”

But the so-called ‘great resignation’ isn’t just an Irish problem.

CNN reports that a record 4.3 million Americans quit their jobs in August, marking the highest quit rate since late 2000. And experts claim it’s only a matter of time before the trend hits Australia and the rest of the world.

So what’s causing it?

For the first time in generations, the pandemic has led to a fundamental rethink, a so-called “pandemic epiphany where employees are questioning their relationship with their employers and demanding better flexibility.

The great executive – employee disconnect 

The theory that return to office policies are driving resignations is supported by a recent Slack survey of 10,000 global knowledge workers which found a stark disconnect between executives and employees when it comes to returning to the office.

  • Nearly half of all executives (44%) want to work from the office every day, compared with just 17% of employees.

  • Furthermore, 75% of executives currently working fully remotely say that they want to work from the office three to five days per week, compared to only 34% of employees.

The office certainly does look different from the top!

But with 57% of global knowledge workers open to looking for a new job in the next year, Slack warns that companies that dismiss employee preferences risk losing top talent.

The US trickles back to offices post-labour day

The number of US workers returning to traditional office space has been edging higher since the week of Labor Day, when an average of 31% of the workforce was reported back in 10 major US cities (as monitored by employee security pass firm Kastle Systems). The average hit 35% during the week that ended Oct 1 and 36% during the week that ended Oct 8.

Those return figures are still modest compared with the lofty expectations we saw at the start of spring, when rising vaccination rates led many companies to say that a majority of their employees would be back at their desks at least part of the time in September.

The spread of the Delta variant changed that. Businesses were forced to shelve reopening plans. Many workers who had returned to the office went back to working remotely, and office use dipped.

Now, with infection rates falling again and vaccination rates growing (in large part due to mandates), it looks like working from the office again before Christmas is a distinct possibility for US teams.

Metrics vs. Psychology – How do you decide when to reopen your office?

Infectious disease experts and epidemiologists have clearly communicated metrics for when public health measures (such as city-wide lockdowns) should be lifted but we’re seeing that things aren’t so simple when it comes to the workplace.

With the onset of Delta, changing advice on vaccine mandates and the continuing drudgery of remote schooling, it’s probably no surprise that many business executives don’t want to announce clearly defined metrics that would trigger people coming back to offices.

Instead, we see dates set and missed, vague policies around ‘set days’ in the office and ongoing uncertainty for both employees, board members and investors.

In this piece, infectious disease specialist Monica Gandhi makes the case for three metrics that could guide when offices should re-open.

This 3 word strategy will fuel Amazon’s new work from home policy (and $386 billion in revenue)

In a recent work from home policy announcement, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy put an end to the ever-looming question of if (and when) staff will return to the office. He stated that the decision will be up to individual teams and that Amazon will be:

“guided by what will be most effective for our customers.”

Below the surface of this seemingly straightforward policy, is what some are claiming to be a deeply strategic leadership strategy.

As other companies center the debate around the question of whether or not it’s safe for staff to return to work, Amazon’s latest policy centers its decision on whether or not it’s effective for staff to remain at home, a key difference that will make a big difference not only for the lives of its over 1.3 million employees, but for Amazon’s over 300 million active users worldwide.

“There is no one-size-fits-all approach for how every team works best,” and that, “We’re going to be in a stage of experimenting, learning, and adjusting for a while.” said Jassey

The simple, yet diplomatic policy passes the responsibility of choice to individual teams. If your team can be effective for customers at home, you can continue to work from home.

It’s a bold move that strongly incentivises teams to continue to deliver outcomes to retain their desired flexibility.

Goodbye desk, hello neighbourhood! 

Over the past year, Herman Miller researchers have talked to hundreds of companies about what should replace the rows of desks in office towers now that the shift to hybrid workplaces has changed our office space requirements.

The answer?

Neighbourhood- based office planning.

“You take a group of desks and collaborative spaces and give ownership of that neighborhood to your team. That’s your clubhouse,” Anderson said. “You can leave it and go see other people, but it gives you a sense of knowing where your people are, and you can spend quality time with them outside of all the Zoom meetings.”

But how do you measure the effectiveness of these team zones?

XY Sense has already thought of that – Check out our latest dashboard release on neighbourhood optimisation.

9 Workplace leaders discuss the intersection of technology, real estate strategy and workplace experience

The workplace strategy pendulum has swung from density optimization to experience curation.

  • How do you balance real estate imperatives with experience objectives?

  • How do you measure workplace experience?

  • And what should be in our data and technology toolkit?

Watch 9 workplace leaders from Salesforce, Accenture, GSK, American Express, Standard Chartered Bank and more discuss!

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