How hybrid working is transforming commercial real estate

Four out of five firms expect their staff to work at the office at least half the time

For many companies, the coronavirus pandemic meant a rapid switch to working from home. Now that we can gradually start looking forward again, the majority of firms (56 percent) are leaning towards some form of hybrid working. And among large organisations with more than 10,000 employees, that figure is as high as 77 percent. Within hybrid working models, the office occupies a prominent position: almost 80 percent of companies expect staff to work there at least half the time. These findings are reported by global real estate adviser CBRE in its latest international sentiment survey of office occupiers, conducted in the summer of 2021.

Collaboration and technology are essential

The survey further reveals that the most important factors determining the added value provided by the office environment are collaboration (81 percent), employee engagement (50 percent) and a strong corporate culture (39 percent). For the transition to hybrid working to be successful, technology is crucial. Also essential are enhanced videoconferencing (67 percent), smart building systems and sensors (31 percent) and good air-quality monitoring (25 percent).

Four keys to successful implementation

“We have mapped the opportunities and challenges of hybrid working internationally,” says Wouter Oosting, Workplace Strategy & Innovation specialist at CBRE. “This has resulted in key recommendations for successful collaboration, in both the short and the long term. We have collated these findings in our recent white paper, The next normal: How Hybrid Working is Transforming Commercial Real Estate.

Oosting continues: “Hybrid working goes much further than letting people choose between working at home or in the office. It requires a deep understanding of company culture and the unique needs and working styles of both individual employees and entire teams. We therefore believe that there are four keys to a successful implementation of hybrid working: WHERE, WHAT, WHO and HOW. Organisations need to define WHERE the work can be done, WHAT work requires in-person collaboration to accomplish, WHO decides the working model used and also who benefits most from being in the office. And finally, the overarching question: HOW do workplaces advance company objectives, company culture and employee collaboration?”

Repercussions for office use

“Initially, it was expected that hybrid working would reduce organisations’ demand for office space. But this doesn’t appear to be the case. In our 2021 sentiment survey of office occupiers, only 5 percent of organisations said that they would be reducing their space by more than 30 percent over the next three years. The office is increasingly becoming a meeting place: a working environment where people and teams come together. This shift has repercussions for office design, for planning and for the equal treatment of those employees who are physically and virtually present. Organisations therefore need to offer distinctive, user-oriented offices which staff like to come to work in.” Oosting’s conclusion: “If you design the office as the ideal place to work together, you can implement hybrid working successfully.”