50 (145) 2021

Lessons from the Pandemic

What does the future look like for offices? Global real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield presents the findings of its proprietary survey of office tenants

By Jan Szulborski, senior consultant, Consulting & Research, Cushman & Wakefield
Header jan szulborski

The office market is now at the epicentre of changes caused by the transition to the remote work model due to the Covid-19 epidemic. However, with the epidemic situation improving, organisations have already commenced planning the return of employees to the workplace. The analysis of the findings of a survey of tenants of the office buildings in the portfolio of properties under management of Cushman & Wakefield Poland reveals how companies are preparing for this change.

In their survey conducted using the CAWI method in June 2021 on a sample of 132 decision-makers in office space management (CEOs, heads of administration, chief operating officers and office managers) experts of Cushman & Wakefield asked the respondents for how many days employees would ultimately return to the office in a post-pandemic environment.

Hybrid working will remain the leading work model

45% of the survey respondents said that they would implement the hybrid model combining in-office work and working from home. The most popular hybrid model involves three days of remote work (38%) and full flexibility (27%). The traditional work model was indicated by close to 25% of the respondents while 63% of all would permit remote working only in exceptional circumstances. Over 30% of all the respondents have not decided which model to embrace for their return to the workplace and have, therefore, taken no specific action regarding their further use of office space.

“Combining working from home and in-office work is a safe alternative that fosters social bonding in an organisation and helps workers enjoy the best of remote work. Many people cannot imagine themselves going back to the office five days a week. Two or three days of in-office work are optimal, because they allow all the employees to meet the members of their teams at least once a week. The remaining time can be easily utilised to catch up with heads down work or to have virtual meetings,” says Dominika Kowalska, associate, workplace strategy, Office Department, Cushman & Wakefield.

Market uncertainty is stopping companies from making decisions about adapting office space to the new reality

Almost a third of all the respondents have either made changes to the ways office space is used during the pandemic (11%) or are planning to make them in the next 12 months (20%). 30% of all the respondents have not made any decisions regarding adaptation of office space to the new reality. With no end yet in sight for the pandemic, some companies are inclined to adopt a wait-and-see strategy for office space use. Just under 30% of the respondents said that they would not make any changes, which may be due to the phase of their lease term or the lack of fit-out or upgrade contributions routinely provided by landlords.

Planned post-pandemic amenities in office buildings will include decreased workstation density and office management apps

16% of the respondents said that they had decided to decrease workstation density in their offices and to increase the number of small meeting rooms or pods. New features to be introduced by close to 25% of the respondents upon the return of employees to the workplace include an app for booking rooms, desks and parking spaces.

“The introduction of an office management app is one of the most popular changes planned for workspace management. It clearly shows that the days of sticking a post-it-note on a door to book a room are long gone. As apps are to support us, it’s good that more and more companies want to invest in them. I personally think that one of the best features of such an app is the opportunity to co-share parking spaces by employees who normally do not have access to them. Although this appears to be a minor thing, it means to a lot to many,” says Ms Kowalska.

A long way to go until we see an uptick in demand for external meeting rooms

Close to 75% of the respondents are not interested in hiring meeting spaces from external providers. Events are largely organised on-site in their own offices or continue to be held online. Nevertheless, some tenants still prefer to hire professional meeting spaces for industry meetings, events, workshops or conferences.

While we are already witnessing an increase in business meetings and events, a return to pre-pandemic activities will be a protracted process. We expect the demand for such spaces to pick up gradually in the coming months.

A restaurant or a canteen and cycling facilities are important to office tenants

Close to two-thirds of all the respondents cited a restaurant or a canteen as the most important amenity in an office building. Availability of cycling facilities came second. “A cash dispenser and a grocery store took the next spots in the ranking of useful amenities in office buildings. These choices are evidence of employees’ need for convenience and time optimisation. The absence of such amenities in a building is not, however, felt as acutely as in the case of the first two indicated in the survey. Other amenities relevant to tenants include a café, a gym / fitness centre and a co-working office. All the above answers indicate the direction in which office landlords should go in order to gain a competitive advantage and create a vibrant and fully-let office building,” says Agnieszka Małysa-Bartos, key account manager, Asset Services, Cushman & Wakefield.

The pandemic has increased demand for parking spaces among 40% of office tenants

28% of the respondents say they need more parking spaces now than before the pandemic. 12% need fewer.

There’s no specific opinion on the return to offices (a total of 77% of answers); half of employers have not developed back-to-the-office strategies yet.

According to Cushman & Wakefield’s survey, more than 50% of the respondents have not developed an employee incentive plan yet and the most common activities include change management and an information campaign (21%), a new office fit-out (19%) and providing access to additional parking spaces (11%).

“There are many ideas to promote in-office work such as hosting a joint breakfast or projects involving a group of people, but in my opinion, it is critical that we make employees aware of benefits and create an appropriate space that fosters knowledge-sharing and collaboration. It is definitely a lot easier and gives more satisfaction when working in an office,” says Aleksandra Tomaszewska, HR manager, Cushman & Wakefield.

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