COVID-19 has helped many companies see the value of operating virtually. Businesses have continued to operate with empty offices while maintaining the same or improved productivity. At the same time, employees found a new mode of working that they love: A mere 4% of workers wish to return to the office five days a week.
These insights bring up some interesting problems for companies to solve once the pandemic passes: Should they keep their office space? If so, how much? If shrinking or changing their real estate footprint is the right move, how can companies strategically go about it?
I’ve led a mostly remote consulting firm for two decades and have been on the frontlines of helping companies permanently adopt remote work. From working with clients in 2020, most are in the process of reevaluating their corporate real estate portfolios and designing what their future workplace will look like and how it will operate. Many of them are considering hybrid options. This is echoed by data from a recent study by CBRE, a global commercial real estate services company, which found that 73% of companies plan to support a hybrid model after the pandemic.
The hybrid set-up combines the best of in-person and remote work. It offers a balanced style of work for employees, which they highly value. They are able to choose from a network of locations to get their work done. This can include a main corporate office, their home, flex space or even a café – what a report from Cushman & Wakefield, a global real estate firm, calls a “Total Workforce Ecosystem.” By keeping the office as part of this ecosystem, the whole organization can realize the critical benefits of face-to-face time, such as improving collaboration, reinforcing culture and helping employees build stronger relationships.
Soon, most companies will adopt this hybrid approach as more employees demonstrate higher productivity levels while demanding the flexibility such a model brings.