Welcome to this month’s edition of Workplace Bytes, a rundown of articles and reports on the future of work, office occupancy trends, and how workplace leaders (like you) are blazing new trails as teams return to offices.
This month, the key trends focus on the return to the office:
- Gradual increase in global occupancy levels
- Growing blowback from employees who want flexibility
- Changing company perspectives on how much people need to be in the office for maximum effectiveness
A summary and links to key articles are below. We hope you find it valuable.
Occupancy Rates are Climbing in Many Markets
Business district restaurants and stores rejoice! Real estate and financial press worldwide report that occupancy rates are rising to their highest levels since the pandemic created the global lockdown. Here are a few of the articles and stats:
In the UK, Costar reports that occupancy levels have reached their highest point ever since the Pandemic began:
The Property Council of Australia reports that self-reported member survey data shows central business district occupancy rates are up about 7% since September.
Why US Occupancy Gains are Slower
Many analysts have noted that occupancy rates have increased more slowly in the US than in other developed countries. This CNBC article says the gap relates to differences in American lifestyle and living arrangements. US houses tend to be larger, providing more room for well-functioning home office areas or rooms. Additionally, US metro commutes are more likely to be car- versus public-transit-based and tend to be longer than for many other world cities.
Together, these forces provide disincentives for 100% at-the-office work schedules. We’ll provide the latest data on occupancy levels by region in next month’s new benchmarking report.
Employee Blowback on RTO Continues
This Op-Ed from Forbes suggests that hybrid workplace policies mandating certain days of the week for return sometimes frustrate employees and teams who prefer greater control and self-determination. The author suggests that policies that demonstrate trust and accountability rather than mandates work best. It’s not flexible if it’s mandated. One suggestion is to allow teams to set their in-office dates.
Fortune says that rigid RTO policies are a force behind recent labor union growth in the US. They say forced returns make employees explore becoming organized as part of local and national unions. After decades of decline, American unions are experiencing a small revival as more private sector employees explore making their workplaces union shops.
Another Fortune article says rigid RTO policies can backfire on companies. They recommend businesses secure accurate occupancy data and create a strategic process for understanding what their teams and workers need to be happy and successful.
A thoughtful New York Times piece says many creative sector companies are updating and revising their workplace policies and that the path forward is increasingly hybrid. The article underscores the need for a deeper understanding of current workplace behaviors and how offices can be made more valuable and appealing.
The ongoing JLL research on employee needs shows that well-being and balance are top concerns for employees in 2023. Thoughtful and functional workplaces make a big difference in creating an atmosphere that meets those needs.
In India, Business Insider reports that many professional workers are frustrated with strict RTO policies despite various carrot-and-stick policies. Some of the data cited:
- 90% of companies will require full RTO in 2023
- 88% are offering some incentives to get employees to return
- 22% will fire employees who refuse to return
- 76% of Indian employees would prefer having control over their working hours and would take a pay cut to have the flexibility of working remotely or hybrid
As in the US, one key reason for worker concern is traffic. With its meteoric economic growth, India’s road and transit infrastructure needs help handling traffic. The number of cars in India has more than doubled since 2010. This Statista analysis reveals that the average Indian commute speed is about 14 mph/20 kph.
The First 15 Minutes of RTO are a Big Deal
We all know first impressions matter, and Forbes says this is particularly true when employers ask workers to return to the workplace. The article suggests multiple strategies to make the first moments of return more pleasant, including emphasizing hospitality, rethinking lobbies and access points to create a welcoming feeling, and replicating some of the comforts of home.
How to Make Hybrid Policies Work. And Stick
The Australian Financial Review published a great piece on the range of policies companies have tried to make hybrid work for their businesses and teams, With some specific company examples of what worked – and didn’t. Definitely worth a read.
Things We All Want
Any fan of the American version of the sitcom The Office knows how different generations react to changes and developments in distinct ways. But recent CBRE research says that Stanley, Phyllis, Jim, Pam, Ryan, and Kelly would all share these attitudes that are transforming workplaces.
XY Sense News: No More Ghost Bookings
We’re excited to announce the launch of a new API powering real-time integrations with many leading workplace experience and booking applications, including; Appspace, Calven, and GoSpace. Once integrated with a company’s booking technology, teams can access live views of which desks and meeting rooms are currently in use and book available spaces in real time. It’s time to end ‘ghost bookings’ where rooms and desks are claimed and listed as unavailable but not occupied!
Read a recent post on this launch from March 30, 2023.
That’s it for this month’s update. Thanks for reading!