Workplace Bytes – February 2023

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Welcome to Workplace Bytes – February 2023, 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. 

For 2023 we’re shaking up the format —  offering a “chart of the month” and a rotating set of features and topics. We hope you find it valuable. 

Chart of the Month

Most companies now actively encourage or require at least some in-office time from workers. For many CRE and HR teams, that’s created a significant need to discover the right number of in-office days. A Gallup study, first released in November, says the figure for most workers is 2-3. 

But it’s not a universal solution.

The “right number” of days on-site varies greatly by job and type of collaboration each role demands.

  • Independent roles where most work activities are completed individually and asynchronously tend to benefit from two to three “collaboration days on-site” each week.
  • Employees in highly collaborative roles had much higher employee engagement when they worked on-site three days per week.

It’s interesting to consider how these different role types could also impact space requirements when they are on-site. One of the most common use cases for occupancy analytics is for validating space types like more desks with screens, new phone pods, or open collaborative spaces.

Remote-Only Work Opportunities on the Wane

New data from WSJ show that the number of remote-only work opportunities seems to be declining rapidly. On LinkedIn, remote job opportunities fell to just 13.7% of total postings in December, down from a high of 20.6% in March. And those opportunities are getting harder to land – 52.8% of all applications submitted on LinkedIn in December were for that tiny fraction of roles. 

It’s clear that companies want more people to return for some or all of their work time, but that there’s a gap when it comes to what many workers want. This underscores the need for more proactive efforts to define and deliver the ideal workplace for productivity and maximum engagement. 

Soft Economy is Reshaping the Return-to-Office

At-home work has a new fan, at least some of the time, according to this article from The Seattle Times. They report that Elon Musk has sent all his Seattle team to WFH as a cost-saving measure. 

While the news about Elon’s change of heart is press worthy, so are the results of this annual CFO survey from IWG. According to the study:

74% of CFOs expect to reduce office space for their companies this year
65% hope to reduce total workplace costs by more than 10% 
83% say hybrid is a more affordable workplace model

Additionally, some employers are seeing a potential bright side to the recent global economic headwinds. They expect that a looser job market will make employees more willing to return to the office

Workplaces and the Workforce

The global economy has slowed a bit, and we’ve all seen the reports of layoffs, particularly in tech

But many companies continue to report difficulty finding people with the right skills for today’s business environment, according to the latest data from Indeed. Putting those “scary” tech cuts into context is also essential. For most tech giants, these downsizings represent a small portion of their total staff.

The best workers demand great roles and work environments. According to the latest data from CNBC and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, quit rates are down but still near historic highs. 

Smaller Spaces Need to Be Better

As many companies reduce their total square footage of workspace, they are focusing increased attention on how to make the more compact environments better meet team needs and staffer expectations. Many companies are moving beyond the “stick” of mandatory in-office policies to proactively create the environments people want to be in. 

There’s a growing recognition that creating productive and satisfying workplaces is about more than having “donut day” or free lunch Tuesdays. This post from Costar talks about what they expect in 2023. Their verdict? It’s all about proactive planning, needs-based spatial allocations, and flexibility. From the piece:

“Real estate is shifting to be more heavy on communal and gathering spaces, but we’re cautioning clients that, when people return to the office, there will be a big emphasis” on what they were missing working from home, HOK’s Sargent said, such as socialization, faster internet and no distractions from family members.

She added that “once that void is filled, people will need to get their work done. Clients that convert all of their space to communal areas will probably think they went too far. It will be a delicate balance to make it so that the office can morph from one function to another.”

Huddle Areas Ascendant?

Our clients and prospects are talking a lot more about collaboration spaces these days – more informal places where people can meet and connect instead of building more dedicated conference rooms. Here are some of the reasons these huddle areas are becoming more popular:

Reducing Costs: It costs less to create an open area with multiple conversation groups than to build conference rooms. With escalating fit-out costs across most markets, finding innovative ways to save is crucial.

Engineering for Flexibility: Moving furniture is easy. Moving walls, not so much. As many companies move from WFH to Hybrid, we’re all still trying to figure out how the dust will settle. We’re all learning new ways of working together and individually. Huddle spaces can be enlarged or shrunk or reconfigured based on what occupancy data tell you your team needs. You can use data to define the right mix today and evolve it as work patterns change.

Fostering Communication: Conference rooms create literal barriers to communication. Mixed-use spaces generate opportunities to collaborate without turning the workstation neighborhood into a free-for-all. 

Workplaces that “Fit”: Some people were excited to return to the office to end their sense of WFH isolation. But we also need places to step away from a busy open-plan space or revive our creativity in a new environment. Huddle spaces can provide that sort of flexibility

Creating Specialness: Some clients report that employees are more excited to come to work because of interesting layouts, furniture, and decor in huddle spaces. For example, one company we spoke with created a vertical conference area that puts every person at a slightly different “altitude” in the room. It’s the most popular team area in the facility.

Getting the balance right – workstations, conference rooms, collaboration spaces, and other resources – is the top challenge and a key reason why more companies are pursuing better occupancy and entry data. 

News and Info from XY Sense

In tough times, CRE teams must define ROI for every major initiative. Visit our page on the ROI of occupancy analytics for more insight on this critical topic. If you’re interested in learning more about occupancy analytics and ROI, schedule time today with our sales team.

Thanks for reading Workplace Bytes – February 2023!

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