Daily Digest News – January 13, 2021

Alex Daily Digest

Hand selected flexible workspace news from the most reliable sources to keep you ahead of the pack. We find all the latest news, so you don’t have to. Morning and afternoon updates. Stay in the know.

Here’s what you need to know today:

San Francisco Sees Record Level Vacancy Rates

San Francisco’s office market is reaching levels worse than the dot-com crash or the global financial crisis.

According to Cushman & Wakefield, as of the end of 2020, the city’s office vacancy rate reached 16.7%, an 11% increase from the year prior and higher than the Great Recession.

According to Robert Sammons, senior director at Cushman & Wakefield in San Francisco, the spike in vacancies is being driven by the growing amount of sublease space.

Even more, new leasing hit the lowest annual level last year since the early 1990s.

The pandemic has forced companies to flee their offices and operate with a distributed workforce as the risk of transmission remains high, particularly in cities like New York and San Francisco.

Technology companies in particular have long embraced remote working, but it has never been more necessary than now. For example, Pinterest paid nearly $90 million to cancel an office lease in San Francisco.

Recovery for the office market in the city will be dependent on widespread vaccine distribution and employees being able to return to the office safely.

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WeWork On Demand Expands Its Services

WeWork will expand its pay-as-you-go program to its Dallas-Fort Worth locations to help boost its business.

The program that was kickstarted last November, coined WeWork On Demand, allowing users to pay just $29 each day to have access to a workspace by signing up through an app.

Additionally, the coworking firm will expand the concept across its locations in Nashville, Houston, San Diego, Salt Lake City and Orange County, California, making the option available across 17 U.S. markets and 190 buildings.

“Whether someone is looking for face-to-face collaboration, a distraction-free workspace near their home, space to take important meetings, or just a change of scenery with fast WiFi and amenities, On Demand can meet those needs at the touch of a button,” said Prabhdeep Singh, WeWork’s global head of marketplace.

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The Importance Of Wellness In The Workplace

A panel of mental health experts and business leaders have suggested that offering flexible work arrangements can help better prioritize wellness in the workplace.

This is especially essential as stress grows about returning to the office after months of working from home.

“Some people might be afraid or anxious about returning to work because of the risk of contracting the virus when travelling during peak hours,” said Professor John Wong Chee Meng, a mental health expert at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. “Supervisors could take a more understanding view and allow employees to come in during off-peak hours.”

According to a survey conducted by employee engagement software provider Engagerocket, most Singaporeans want to continue working from home. 

This means companies need to reevaluate how to support those workers. This could be in the form of adjusting budgets to offer stipends for employees to improve their home workspaces.

Additionally, panelists emphasize the importance of creating a more empathetic workplace as mental health issues reach record highs throughout the pandemic.

Business leaders need to take note of how their employees are doing. Are they focused? Is their work output still of high quality?

Without a healthy workforce, culture and productivity take a major hit. That is why companies need to have programs in place to boost wellness. This can range from weekly virtual happy hours, or allowing time for workers to simply share how they are feeling.

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The Renaissance Of The Office

In the years prior to the pandemic, the global workforce was slowly pivoting away from the idea of a traditional office. Now, as society has become acclimated to distancing rules and working from home, this shift is more evident than ever before.

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However, while some have proclaimed that the office is dead and will never be relevant again, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Instead, there will be almost an office renaissance that will focus on nurturing creativity, collaboration and wellness.

Remote working has been a dream for many employees, but others have struggled with this arrangement largely due to not having the appropriate home office space, or having issues creating boundaries between their professional and personal life.

While it is clear that remote working will continue to play a significant role in how many companies operate, there needs to be alternative solution for employees who are struggling

This reason is why some companies, such as Google, have announced that they will be operating with a hybrid model moving forward. The tech giant is aiming to offer workers a flexible schedule, with three days in the office dedicated for collaboration, as well as the option to work in-person or at home the rest of the week.

Offering employees a choice helps them connect with colleagues in the workplace, choose the best work week schedule that suits their lives and can improve the overall well-being of workers.

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Why Dropbox Is Avoiding The Hybrid Work Model

As society slowly emerged into the post-pandemic era, businesses are considering how to incorporate remote working into their operations without completely letting go of the office.

That’s where the hybrid work model seems to be the best option by allowing employees to choose between coming into the office or working from home depending on their individual needs.

While this could be viewed as embracing the perks of both arrangements, there may be issues with this model in terms of inclusion and career progression as it highlights that different workplace experiences between employees.

“What we discovered in talking with other companies is that you end up having issues arising with inclusion, promotion, career growth, cliques and different norms forming within different teams,” said Laura Ryan, director of international human resources at Dropbox. “That, for us, was very much a red line issue. We didn’t want to run the risk of having any issues around equality or inclusion.”

That is why the company developed their new “Virtual First” model. This approach will allow employees to have access to all the benefits of remote working, while also offering them an option for physical workspace coined Dropbox Studios.

The office will serve as a home for collaboration, which can be hard to accomplish when working from home. But the company has made one thing clear — the space is not meant for independent work so issues of presenteeism and inclusivity do not arise.

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The Issue With A Hybrid Work Policy

Companies large and small have had no choice but to transition their workers to remote working arrangements, and many have found that this may be the preferred policy of some employees.

However, as vaccines continue to be distributed globally, some organizations are preparing to bring some of their workers back to the office.

This has led some to adopt a hybrid approach, allowing workers to have a choice between working from home and working in the office.

However, there could be some challenges to how this arrangement could shape the workforce.

The physical proximity between in-office and remote workers may highlight inequalities. 

For instance, after a video conference call, those in the workplace are likely to continue their conversation. Those at home don’t get to participate in these candid moments, which could lead to unintended bias against them.

Business leaders are unable to see how their remote workers are interacting and connecting with their colleagues. Video conferencing is unable to take note of emotions, body language or spontaneity. 

One of the biggest challenges of remote working has been collaboration. Although there are various collaboration tools that make interacting with colleagues a little easier, building a sense of community becomes difficult.

There is a certain spark of connection that comes with being in an office with workers, from finding common ground on non-related work topics to facing project challenges together.

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