WorkplaceBytes – February 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.

We’re kicking off 2024 with trends and predictions for the year ahead. Will back-to-office mandates or hybrid flexibility reign supreme? Will the downsizing trend continue as more companies come off long-term leases? And what are the latest workplace design models for hybrid teams?

Read on to find out… or LISTEN to the podcast version below.

Introducing the WorkplaceBytes pod

Yes, we’re starting a WorkplaceBytes podcast for you workplace data nerds.

Hosted by our XY Sense US Customer Success champion, Shane Radford, now you can catch up on the latest workplace trends and corporate real estate news from anywhere.

What’s in and out… for the workplace in 2024

We’ll admit it was good fun, but some of Gensler’s ‘outs’ in this Buzzfeed-style list of what’s in and out for the workplace in 2024 had us like…

Really, real estate performance metrics are no longer required? And companies should try to maintain abundant desks even though data shows the average desk is utilized less than 50% of the time?

That said, there were several predictions that rang true for us.

In: Curated Destination | Out: Universal Planning

The workplace will look and feel different for each company or site based on the mix of experiences, demographics, and functions at each location. OUT is the undifferentiated open office with its one-size-fits-all programming template.

In: Privacy | Out: Open Plan

Providing ‘degrees of openness’ ranging from enclosed focus rooms to libraries to quiet zones can better support new ways of working beyond the desk. OUT are seas of open plan desks as the primary place to focus on individual work.

In: Creating Joy of Work | Out: FOMO

Social connections, being part of a community, and having fun can contribute to higher employee engagement. OUT is showing up out of fear or mandates.

In: Keeping it Right | Out: Getting it Right

Piloting new ideas, testing design solutions, gathering data, adjusting for feedback, and always being in beta are in. OUT is the physical workplace that is treated as precious and remains static.

Increasing productivity tops to-do lists for workplace leaders in ‘24

The question of employee productivity in a hybrid world is front and center for workplace teams this year, with a VTS survey showing that increasing productivity and collaboration are the top workplace goals for 2024. 

Hybrid IS – and will remain – the 2024 office model

The CBRE 2023-2024 Global Workplace Occupancy and Insights Report shows that 90% of companies globally operate with hybrid work rules. The trend shows no signs of weakening. The US shows the highest percentage of hybrid companies, at 94%. EMEA shows the lowest, at 71%.

The workplace design models that will work best in 2024?

The same CBRE report also classifies emerging office design models into four groupings – each with a different configuration of  ‘me’ and ‘we’ space, depending on the needs of the business.

  • Boulevard Model: puts a premium on individual work areas (“me space”)
  • District Model: built around more activity-based spaces
  • Plaza Model: emphasizes events
  • Park Model: focuses on collaboration space

The data reveal an expected shift from individual desk space to more investment in collaboration areas. We’ve been flagging this trend throughout 2023, and expect it to continue into 2024 as employees focus more in-office time on meetings and group work.

According to the CBRE report, the trend away from individual space has been ongoing in the US and Asia. In EMEA, the change has been more recent and rapid.

More companies will track – and incentivize – office attendance this year

Human Resources Director reported on a recent survey that found 91% of companies plan to track office attendance in 2024. While ⅓ say that they may fire employees that do not comply, 91% say they will offer generous incentives, including happy hours (52%), catered meals (46%), and upgraded office space (41%). Other employers will offer bigger incentives such as raises (40%) and childcare benefits (37%). 43% will use occupancy sensors for tracking.

The survey, conducted for Resume Builder, said that company leaders cited multiple reasons for enforcing compliance. “The reasons companies are mandating employees RTO [are] because they believe it has a positive impact on productivity (76%), improves culture (63%), and betters employee satisfaction. Additionally, 29% of business leaders say working from the office reduces burnout.”

But workers actually want to spend more time in the office in 2024 (mandates or not). A recent Gensler survey found that employees in many regions think they must spend more time in the office to improve their productivity.

Similarly, workplace leaders responding to a VTS survey said that mandates aren’t the primary driver of workplace attendance. Just 5% listed them as a top driver. Instead, they noted collaboration/community and productivity as the top employee drivers.

CBRE’s 2023-2024 Global Workplace Occupancy and Insights Report went one step further, weighing up the importance of in-person interaction/office time across a variety of work outcomes.

Companies will seek higher-quality spaces as they downsize

The December 2023 edition of the CBRE US Market Outlook projects continued softness in commercial real estate, with vacancies peaking just above 19% by the end of the year. Their most recent Office Occupier Sentiment Survey showed 53% of tenants expected to reduce space in 2023.

But!

Prime office space in great locations and with great amenities is hot. “The flight-to-quality trend of recent years will continue to support demand for newer, prime office product with the best amenities.”

Workplace leaders are on the case to tackle the collaboration space “gap”

Workplace software company VTS published a survey about the pain points workplace leaders see in 2024. At the top of the list is a shortage of collaboration space like meeting rooms. 40% of US and 38% of EMEA respondents cited this as a top problem that needs solving.

ICYMI: Latest edition of the XY Sense Workplace Utilization Index now available

We released our latest WUI study in December, which reports on many factors of workplace utilization for the US, Australia, and APAC. Data are through Q3 2023.

This edition also outlines many of the strategies that workplace leaders are using to capitalize on the most important opportunities flagged in the report. See a topline of the data, and download the complete study now.

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

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