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WorkplaceBytes – April 2024

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Welcome to Workplace Bytes, the monthly newsletter curating news and insights on workplace strategy, office design, and corporate real estate from across the world.

This month’s edition focuses on two areas:

  1. There has been a marked shift away from strict mandates and sabre-rattling about teams spending more time in offices. In 2024, the focus will be on better manager communication, in-office incentives, and delivering more inviting and effective environments.
  2. The growing importance of ESG, carbon reduction, and innovation to safeguard the planet from CRE-based threats.

Check out our news roundup below or listen to the podcast version below. 

Listen to the WorkplaceBytes podcast

Treat your ears to this month’s podcast, courtesy of  XY Sense US Customer Success champion, Shane Radford. 

“It’s dinosaur management of the highest order”

Business Insider published a long piece on the problems of relying on mandates to enforce workplace policies. Among many others, they quote Cary Cooper, an organizational psychologist at the University of Manchester, who said companies focusing on punitive employee monitoring are taking an antiquated approach likely to fail. 

It’s dinosaur management of the highest order. They don’t understand the marketplace for talent, and they’re going to be in trouble as a consequence. They’ll lose talent. And they won’t be able to recruit good people. [Their] brand is going to be tarnished. People will say ‘I’m not even going to apply for a job there because they want me in five days a week.

Another BI article cites Tata Consultancy as an example of a company that has seen its mandates backfire, significantly increasing attrition, especially among women. Said HR Head Milind Makkad in their annual report,

Historically, women’s attrition at TCS has been similar or lower than men’s attrition, so this is unusual. There might be other reasons, but intuitively, I would think working from home during the pandemic reset the domestic arrangements for some women, keeping them from returning to office even after everything normalized.

What Works: Realistic Expectations and Strong Communication

After about two years of asking, then encouraging, then demanding workplace attendance, companies are shifting their strategies to instead “sell” the value of hybrid/work-from-work.

A CBRE survey reported in 3BL CSRwire showed that 59% of business leaders say workplace attendance for their companies has reached a steady state. 41% say they expect attendance to increase. The report also shows that 92% of leaders believe in-office time is important.

The study also analyzed the impact of clear communication on three days-per-week workplace attendance. Companies communicating the reasons for a hybrid policy saw significantly higher compliance rates.

Two-thirds of respondents said that they have clearly communicated the value proposition of being in the office to their employees. The reasons they cite in those communications are primarily related to improved interpersonal communications and professional development.

Newer offices, better tech, and more inviting spaces, recommends EY

An EY Future Workplace Trends post shows that many companies are moving to better-equipped spaces and locations to improve worker engagement and productivity. The report says that after three years of investing in hybrid work models and gaining confidence in the results, corporate attention is turning back to the purposeful use of office spaces.

  • 51% of EY Future Workplace Index respondents are investing in newer, high-tech office space with enhanced amenities
  • 63% are investing in more digital and virtual collaboration resources
  • 65% of respondents are, or are considering, creating a work environment that allows for predictable flexibility in work schedules to support work-life balance.

In India, workplace design is getting an upgrade

In India, the commercial real estate market is hot as economic confidence rises and companies take steps to create more positive and inviting work environments for their teams. Hindu Businessline reports that 91% of major Indian companies have increased their space in the past two years.

The country is becoming well-known for innovative workplace designs and work environments. Many publications report an explosion of interest in more attractive and well-equipped offices built for the new ways of working. The Hindustan Times reports that the top workplace design trends for that market are:

Majority of Offices Providing Come-to-Office Incentives

An HRO/CapRelo survey analyzed the incentives companies were offering to encourage in-office time. 54% of companies reported offering some type of incentive. The most common were team-building events, food, and gym memberships.

XY Sense CEO’s Forbes Op-Ed Underscores Need to Focus on Better Workplaces

Co-founder and CEO Alex Birch was just published in Forbes advocating for a new approach to workplace leadership. Stop The Return To Office Nonsense explains why mandates don’t work and points to a better way. From the piece:

We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to realign our workspaces to drive maximum productivity and employee engagement—all while spending less money and reducing our carbon footprint. 

See the “how” for capitalizing on this opportunity in the post. 

California forces disclosure of carbon impact of office buildings (and more!)

Since January, we’ve seen growing interest in CRE and workplace sustainability in our conversations with companies and in the press. Sustainability and the XY Sense Senselink solution are key drivers of XY Sense’s marketplace success. Stories from around the world show that interest in sustainability continues to grow.

A report in Urban Land shows that California’s efforts to improve workplace sustainability are having an effect on companies inside and outside the state. Two new state laws, SB 253 and SB 261, require large public and private companies in California to report their total greenhouse gas emissions and the impacts of climate change on their financial performance. While the laws apply only to companies operating in California, the state’s enormous economy is encouraging companies across the country to offer climate risk reporting of carbon and other emissions. Despite potential legal opposition, many industry sources believe that public and consumer pressure will drive widespread adoption of environmental impact reporting and ESG transition initiatives in the years ahead.  

Will this mean a flight to smarter, greener office buildings once mandatory reporting is in place?

It’s highly likely. 

The Economic Times (India) reports that demand for green real estate in India has quadrupled. According to the piece, demand for green has been driven by initiatives across the CRE ecosystem and national and state governments. 

Now Available! XY Sense Workplace Utilization Index 2024 Predictions

We’ve just published the latest edition of our popular WUI reports, which provide insights on utilization trends worldwide and in key markets. Based on more than 20B data points from 35,000+ workspaces, this month’s report outlines utilization rates for Q4 2023 and our best predictions on how workplaces will change this year. View the report and download a copy now.

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

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