AUSTIN, TX—Workplace strategies are shifting to meet the needs of today’s hyper-connected mobile workforce, according to CBRE’s 2018 Americas Occupier Survey. The results of this year’s survey highlight the strategies that executives are executing for the benefit of business lines and employees.
The first strategy is reinventing workplace standards, with 45% anticipating migrating to an activity-based workplace. The second is unassigned seating, with survey respondents seeing space plans changing dramatically during the next three years. The breakdown is 38% going to a partially unassigned seating environment and 14% expecting to adopt unassigned seating for everyone.
“Companies are coming to the realization that they are paying for 100% of their workforce to be housed when on any given day, only 50 to 75% of their workforce might show up in the office,” Nate Stricklen, senior vice president at CBRE in Austin, tells GlobeSt.com. “Employers are beginning to adapt their workspaces to reflect this by getting more dense, taking less square footage and providing more flexible work schedules for their employees. The new workforce is mobile and the new office has to reflect this by providing more of a destination versus just a place to work and adjusting culturally from the historic ‘me’ space to more ‘we’ space within the space.”
As another strategy, occupiers are focused on drawing employees to the office by offering a variety of amenities and workspace options. A majority of survey respondents, 81%, perceive amenities as integral to the employee experience, and encouraging landlords and other service providers to enhance these. The traditional arrangement with three ways of working has quickly expanded to seven or more ways to work. In addition to shared space and unassigned seating, employers are offering collaboration spaces, breakout rooms, coffee bar seating and lounges to keep workers motivated, says Stricklen.
“Employers have realized that employees want access to amenities, i.e., a fitness center with showers, bike storage, standing desk options and relaxation areas,” Stricklen tells GlobeSt.com. “They have come to recognize that a healthy employee has a higher productivity level and that if they do not deliver these amenities to their employee base, their competitors will.”
The survey finds that 59% say they plan to enhance the employee experience through the introduction of mobile apps that help them to navigate the workplace and foster collaboration.
“The modern workplace is in a state of transition as workplace design standards have evolved from traditional layouts with a mix of enclosed and open workspaces. Flexibility over the life of a lease is one advantage to unassigned seating, as moves, adds and changes become significantly easier,” said Julie Whelan, Americas head of occupier research, CBRE. “Managing employees through this change is critical, so that the initiative is viewed as being additive to productivity and wellness instead of a pure cost-cutting measure.”
Other priorities for executives in 2018 include preparing for the future workforce and the future corporate real estate team. While design is an integral component of a workplace of choice, supporting employees’ personal lives at work through ease and convenience is part of the transformative role that real estate is expected to play. Among the most important employee offerings, companies indicated in addition to amenities and flexible work structure, access to public transportation (39%) was integral to creating a sought-after experience.
“Increasingly we are seeing occupiers adopt a service-driven approach to amenities, testing offerings like hospitality teams and wellness programs. This approach is inherently flexible, space efficient and easily tested in the workplace with little capital or commitment. This shift has allowed smaller occupiers and large occupiers with distributed footprints to offer amenities like food, fitness and health services through services that larger tenants have historically provided in dedicated fixed spaces. It has the potential to really level the playing field in the amenities race,” said Damla Gerhart, senior managing director and Americas lead of CBRE’s workplace practice.
By creating and implementing strategies to create value in a changing environment, corporate real estate executives have earned an elevated position in the C-suite—69% now report to a C-level position, up from 66% in 2017.