Corporations are facing the twofold challenge of having to reshape both physical offices and employee attitudes as they work to design return-to-office plans and satisfy a reluctant workforce. The challenge for the CRE industry is real – how to design for flexibility without adding more premium space that may sit unused most of the time.
In most office buildings, predicting occupancy is still an enormous obstacle. At the close of last year, 73% of full-time U.S. workers were going into the office at least once a week. This means a vast mix of employees are working remotely and in the office. And the Great Resignation – a phenomenon that describes record numbers of people leaving their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic – means HR and executive leadership teams are working overtime to bridge the gap between employee satisfaction and a return-to-office norm.
TOUGH CHOICES ON EXISTING LEASES
Accenture’s Market Leader Gabe Burke highlighted the need for corporate real estate restructuring in a recent LinkedIn article. “It is clear that if those in the C-suite knew then what they know now, they would have immediately begun to reduce their real estate assets,” Burke writes, in a post titled Corporate real estate has become a black hole that devours money. Time to fix it.
Now corporations need to reduce their office space or restructure it to accommodate a workforce that many predict will not return to a 5-day office presence soon or ever. “Most workplace strategy experts agree that office design should change, which further decreases the value of holding empty space,” writes Burke.
Underutilization has always been a costly issue in corporate real estate. According to JLL research, nearly 40% of workspaces in CRE portfolios are underutilized in a typical workday in the U.S. That statistic was quoted prior to the pandemic, and it’s one that strategic planners and facility managers know can be hard to budge.
DESKS OUT, COUCHES IN
But cutting backspace can mean less inviting spaces and be caught off guard later. In the first-quarter AICPA Economic Outlook Survey, 72% of business executives said that their organizations have no interest in shrinking their office footprint because they don’t want to risk needing that vacant space down the road.
Many corporations are already getting creative, turning unused conference rooms into new common areas for employees, for example. Brent Hyder, President and Chief People Officer of Salesforce, told The Wall Street Journal in an article discussing corporations’ plans to renovate office spaces titled After Covid Closures, a New Quest to Make Offices Less Awful that Salesforce is clearing desks from vacant conference rooms and replacing them with couches and televisions to create spaces for teams to collaborate.
“We’re creating spaces so that, when our teams come together, they have a place that’s inspiring to them,” Hyder told the Journal.
OCCUPANCY ANALYTICS FOR SPACE MANAGEMENT
To better understand which spaces are actually being used and to deliver the work environments that provide employees a sense of belonging and ownership, many corporate leaders are searching for ways to create occupancy reports, see predictive analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI).
Space analytics software from Armored Things leverages existing WiFi, cameras, badge systems, sensors – any available data sources – to manage and monitor occupancy. When using Armored Things software, operations teams can visualize their space in a format that can be easily understood, and apply historical overlays to see predictive use cases. This type of machine learning or occupancy analytics is helping CRE customers find more value in existing spaces. Workspace analytics can also integrate with other scheduling and collaboration tools to help validate space decisions.