by Janet Morra
During the early days of the pandemic, we collectively embraced the notion that once vaccines became available, things would return to a “new normal,” and a mass return to the office would follow.
In reality, the hybrid work environment – long a staple in certain high-tech industries and made possible through advancements in technology – was mainstreamed. At the time, Margulies Perruzzi’s Workplace Strategy Report: Embracing the Hybrid Workspace affirmed the logic of transitioning from a traditional to hybrid model. Our survey of 8,600 people across multiple business sectors revealed that 44% of workers planned on being in the office three days a week, and 25% planned on two days. Only 9% responded that they would return to a pre-pandemic office presence.
Corporate managers who make real estate and facility decisions are facing the new reality of altered employee expectations. We know of one company that had an epiphany when they realized that the 100,000sf building they own sits mostly empty, because in their new hybrid work environment, they have never had more than 50 people show up to work in the office on any given day.
We recently launched a new initiative to find out how our clients are approaching hybrid work, and the results align with what other industry leaders are reporting. The following are several key questions we posed and the responses we received.
- Did you have a formal hybrid/flex plan prior to COVID?
- Do you have a formal hybrid/flex plan in place now?
- Is in-office attendance required or suggested for a specific number of days per week?
- Is your organization “remote first”, “office first”, or “true hybrid”?
- Remote first-20%
- Office first-40%
- True hybrid-40%
- Have you reduced your own office space?
- Have you altered your office space?
There are many options available for implementing a full or partial return to the office, but there is no “one size fits all” solution. For the company with the 100,000sf, underutilized building, alternatives included selling it, relocating to a smaller space and designing it for how their staff works now, subletting half the square footage and redesigning the space they occupy, or keeping the building and initiating a mandatory in-office schedule.
Companies opting to redesign current or new space to bring workers back to the office are using various tactics. Creating a more homelike atmosphere might translate into softer seating and less dependence on fixed workstations. Now that virtual meetings are routine, private offices can be transformed into huddle rooms where one or two people can conduct an online session with acoustic and visual privacy. There is also a move towards even more collaboration and team space, as well as organized events, activities, and amenities designed to appeal to the basic human need to be together.
In the end, the most successful solution is one that is uniquely tailored to your company’s business model, strategic plan, and corporate culture. Ultimately, flexibility of both thought and design are the keys to cultivating a successful hybrid work environment.
Janet Morra, AIA, LEED AP, is a principal and partner with Margulies Perruzzi. This article originally appeared in Banker & Tradesman.