Workplace Bytes – August 2023

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Welcome to Workplace Bytes, your monthly rundown of news and ideas on real estate and occupancy management. 

This month, there are a lot of positive signals about hybrid work and the value it provides, our collective love/hate relationship with RTO mandates persists and more companies eye downsizing their workplace portfolios.

Let’s jump in…

The office matters, even to remote-evangelist Zoom

Many press reports have discussed the rapid rise of hybrid workplaces. In a sign of just how big this trend is, video platform Zoom has called its team back to the office three days a week.

Photo Credit: Zoom Blog

Hybrid is here to stay… And we’re (mostly) lovin’ it

Industry analysts report that most information workers now work for businesses with RTO mandates or suggestions. Here’s a chart from a major McKinsey study,  Empty Spaces and Hybrid Places, showing the average number of days workers spend in the office each week in major UJS cities. 

Tim Nelms, Sr Gartner Analyst, has recently predicted that 75% of office workers will be subject to hybrid rules by 2025. For a look at the current policies and guidelines of major companies, refer to this list from Business Insider

The McKinsey study also revealed that workers were spending about as much time in the office as they would like, a positive sign for those concerned about continued employee friction over RTO mandates. This is a great reminder that while scattered reports of complete opposition to in-office work capture headlines, most people want a hybrid workplace, as this 2022 Slack survey clearly showed. 


Source: Slack, 2022

Another study, from SHRM, shows that of workers who have returned at least some of the time, 72 percent described their return-to-workplace experience as somewhat/very positive. 

State of the mandate: If I’m back in the office, you should be too! 

With the Labor Day in the US fast-approaching, it’s clear that  Zoom aren’t the only ones getting impatient with perceived low attendance in offices and are using the holiday as an occasion to officially put “work from anywhere” policies to bed, whether workers like it or not. Alongside the usual suspects (like JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs), even formerly quite lenient companies, like Meta, Google, and Salesforce are mandating worker returns for at least 2-3 days per week. 

In an ironic twist, one of the most significant barriers to RTO compliance is managers mandating the return for their reports but continuing to work from home themselves. This WSJ article shows that the strongest resistance to return comes from senior and mid-level managers, and those making $100K+. 

Knowledge workers are calling their manager’s bluff: RTO Policy compliance rates continue to vary

Larger companies and those in professional services, information, finance, business management, and healthcare show lower compliance with return-to-office guidelines and policies.

Recent reports from across many major markets show the importance of a manageable commute to RTO compliance. Time spent getting to and from work is important here, but so are the physical conditions of the commute. Widespread declines in reported office utilization accompanied the extremely high global temperatures in July. For example, Fortune reported that Austin, Texas, which recently saw a high of 112F (44C), saw a 17% drop in average weekly attendance at the height of the heat wave. 

The way you bring people back into offices matters

This Yahoo!finance piece shares recent survey data which shows that most bosses regret the way they mandated workers return to the office, blaming it on bad data.  

Four in five (80%) of bosses told workplace software firm Envoy that had they had a better grasp on actual employee preferences, they would have taken a starkly different approach to their return-to-office plans. The problem, they said: They didn’t have access to workplace data to help them make their decision. 

In a white paper report, Envoy surveyed 1,156 U.S.-based executives and workplace managers whose employees operate on some form of hybrid schedule.

Over half (54%) of managers told Envoy they’ve had to forgo making a critical decision about the workplace because they lacked the requisite data to support it. Without that data, nearly a quarter of them admit to making decisions based on “gut instinct,” which naturally leads to resentment and disappointment. 

Fifty-seven percent of bosses said if they had better access to data, they could better measure the success of their in-office policies. 

We couldn’t agree more. 

Booking data can be notoriously inaccurate – How many times have you booked a room or desk and failed to show up?  Or spotted a room that’s ostensibly booked but empty?

That’s where real time occupancy sensing solutions like XY Sense can help teams really cut through the noise of RTO compliance, providing 100% anonymous but highly accurate occupancy and space utilization data to help teams dynamically manage their space in the hybrid workplace era.

 San Francisco CRE market is (slowly) recovering

The City by the Bay has gotten a lot of bad press lately, partly because its tech-centric downtown has been slow to RTO. But the “downtown ghosttown” is turning around, with the city reporting a 10% increase in demand for downtown office space in Q2 of 2023. AI start-ups are getting funded and looking for space, and tech giants are getting more aggressive about enforcing their hybrid work rules. While the city is not yet out of the woods, the trends are pointed in a healthier direction. 

 CRE Rightsizing top of mind

Many articles and reports came out last month on how CFOs are carefully scrutinizing CRE investments to identify potential savings. 57 of the Fortune 100 have announced plans to downsize real estate investments. Even real estate management giant JLL is working to reduce its HQ footprint by about a third

Check out this list of every major company reducing office space. #mindblown

 The data you need to maximize workplace ROI 

Getting maximum ROI from real estate investments is job one for workplace teams but how do you walk the tightrope between finding costs savings and delivering highly engaging and pleasant office spaces?

In this article we walk through a 4 step process for using occupancy analytics to drive ROI from your workplace.

That’s it for this month’s edition of Workplace Bytes.  We hope you enjoyed the read.

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