- A report from Comfy | Enlighted, examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working models, real estate plans and business priorities at large businesses.
- The report found that 99% of respondents recognise the hybrid working model as a key business productivity facilitator.
- It also found that over half of large firms have reduced their real estate footprint since the beginning of the pandemic
As economies reopen and firms get to grips with operating under the “new normal”, hybrid working has emerged as a permanent structural change.
Yet it’s worth remembering that we’re still in the transitional phase, and many larger firms are still establishing – and experimenting with – new processes and protocols.
It’s the first in a series of pulse studies examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working models, real estate plans, and business priorities at large businesses.
“Our study results indicate that enterprise companies are considering how the seismic shift in work impacts top-line objectives such as productivity and sustainability,” said Matthias Rebellius, managing board member of Siemens AG and CEO of Smart Infrastructure.
Siemens commissioned analyst firm Verdantix to undertake independent, anonymised phone interviews with 75 executives in real estate, workplace, and facilities management roles in firms with annual revenues of over $1 billion, based in North America, Europe and APAC.
Respondents were asked about their evolving working model and real estate plans, business priorities, job role and responsibility changes, and technology investment plans.
Here are the report’s key findings:
1. Hybrid working is boosting productivity
99% of respondents recognise the hybrid working model as a key business productivity facilitator. 45% ranked flexible working as “very significant” in helping their business succeed at maximising their workforce’s productivity, and 54% labelled it as “significant”.
2. Operational uncertainties remain
Amid the emergence of new variants and inconsistent vaccine rollouts in some parts of the world, many firms are still in the process of establishing their hybrid strategy.
A sense of uncertainty is being fuelled by shifting capacity limits, new policies for on-site working, and a general lack of understanding around managing activity-based workspaces.
Two-thirds of respondents said they’d expect to be operating some form of flexible working in two years’ time, and 25% are unsure about what their working model will look like.
3. Activity-based workspaces are the future
Over half of large firms have reduced their real estate footprint since the beginning of the pandemic. 28% aim to reduce their portfolio by up to 10% in the next two years.
The majority of firms currently use workspaces that are made up of one or more of the following: assigned workspaces (where employees are allocated their own desk), hot-desking (where desks are shared), and activity-based workspaces.
Activity-based workspaces are designed to provide users with a range of work settings tailored to different tasks. They’re often reconfigurable and tech-enabled.
In two years time, assigned workspaces will account for just 37% of real estate portfolios.
The share of activity-based workspaces will increase from 28% to 34%, as the role of the office evolves to encompass collaboration, flexibility and productivity.
4. Productivity and sustainability top the agenda
Business productivity, sustainability, and optimising workspace usage are key priorities for businesses at the moment. Maximising business productivity tops the agenda, with 59% ranking it as a “very high” priority.
91% of real estate executives are prioritising energy efficiency as they look to decarbonise their real estate portfolio and embrace sustainable business practices.
5. Workspaces are becoming increasingly tech-enabled
In a bid to maximise productivity, bolster hybrid working, improve the occupier experience, and make offices “smarter”, all respondents plan to prioritise technology.
37% of firms have already invested in new technologies following COVID-19, 40% are currently doing so and 23% are planning implementations over the next couple of years.
“Employees need applications that help them engage in activity-based work in new kinds of spaces, collaborating with others where and when it makes sense,” said Stefan Schwab, CEO of Comfy | Enlighted.
“Corporate real estate executives need ways to understand, track and adapt to shifting working mores, leveraging technologies and data insights for smart building optimization and sustainability.”
6. The role of the corporate real estate leader has evolved
Just as the role of the workplace is evolving, so is the role of the corporate real estate executive. In fact, 93% say they now have a greater strategic influence in key business decisions, and over 40% executives are collaborating more with other departments.
Prior to the pandemic, CRE management was often perceived as a support function.
Now, CRE leaders are finding themselves at helm, working increasingly with C-suite executives to navigate the largely uncharted waters of hybrid work.
To explore all of the study’s findings and analysis, download the full report.