Daily Digest News – February 8, 2021

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:

Making Adjustments To The Office For The Future

Although most people are eager to return back to the way things once were, there is a growing murmur of those who are actually enjoying being at home more.

For some it’s the increased time with family, and for many others it’s the ability to not have to commute to work every day

That means that the spike in remote working will not just disappear once the virus is controlled. However, people have expressed still wanting to come into the office at least part of the time in the future.

In fact, global studies by furniture manufacturer Steelcase found that 54% of U.S. respondents said they expect to work from home at least one day each week or less.

It’s evident that the office will continue to play an essential role in the workplace, but how it is designed and operated will be important factors in its longevity.

So what can employers do to ensure that employees come back to an office that is safe, supportive and updated with the tools necessary for the post-pandemic era?

Safety is at the front of everyone’s minds, and this means more than clearly marked exit signs. Now, workers want to ensure that their workspace has good air quality, as well as strict cleanliness and distancing protocols.

Providing workers with the tools they need to support their mental wellbeing will also be essential to bringing them back into the office. Educating employees on how to manage stress, fatigue and anxiety will be critical for them to be fully productive and part of the workplace community.

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Improving The Technological Skills Of Workers

The mass adoption of technology has not only been a necessity in the past year, but has permanently transformed how we work. 

Now, companies need to focus on how to continue utilizing these advancements to improve workplace operations and crisis-proof their business.

One method of boosting resiliency is the use of flexible working arrangements and how to work alongside the technology that makes this way of working possible.

Using video conferencing tools, online courses, webinars and collaborative platform software have become an essential part of a flexible workforce. 

By providing workers the opportunity to learn how to use these resources, they are able to expand on their existing skills and set themselves up for success in their future endeavors.

It’s important to understand that having an understanding of artificial intelligence, blockchain, machine learning and other modern technologies is no longer limited to IT. Employees from various teams should have a grasp on how these tools operate.

Without encouraging and educating employees about new technology tools, companies are hurting their journey towards digitization.

Extending these opportunities to students can help prepare graduates for when they enter the workforce. While younger generations are typically tech savvy, helping them enhance their understanding and techniques will set them apart in the future.

Being technologically fluent is no longer a nice perk to have -— it’s a necessary trait. Organizations who take time to educate workers and future talent on how to improve their skills are guaranteed to see a boost in productivity.

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The Importance Of Investing Into The Employee Experience

Although some businesses have been heavily investing into utilities, technology and real estate, it’s equally important to invest into the employee experience.

Research has indicated that focusing on the needs of employees can make the biggest difference in how well a company operates.

Creating a work environment that clearly puts the workers first means increased productivity, retention rates and overall job satisfaction.

Asking what employees need out of their workplace will allow business leaders to make improvements to workplace operations, while letting workers know their opinion matters.

“Re-entering the workplace isn’t a one-and-done conversation, you have to build a partnership with your people,” said Denise Dexter, chief operating officer of the Carolinas market. “Human resources, operations, and business lines will have to collaborate and adapt together to help best support employee needs from all angles.”

So which strategies can HR and business leaders execute to make sure that employees feel safe and excited to return to the office?

For starters, ensuring that workers are safe when they re-enter the office will be crucial. This means enforcing protocols like distancing and mask-wearing, as well as accommodating those who may be high-risk.

Having a concrete plan to report and track potential infections that are in compliance with HIPAA rules will also be necessary.

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Including new practices for in-person workers will also be vital to the safety of everyone. This means including signage to remind employees to keep distanced, boosting sanitation and physically keeping work stations apart.

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Remote Working Is Not The Only Threat To The Office

A recent report from Green Street has revealed that decreased job growth and increase in interest rates could contribute to the struggling office market.

Although many analysts have pointed to remote working as the culprit for skyrocketing vacancies, the report finds that other factors are also playing a role.

The report indicates that the decrease in office-focused jobs, as well as a slowdown in the technology, advertising, media and information industries has decreased office demand.

Additionally, advancements in Fintech have caused demand for financial services office space to fall off.

Even more, the growing trend of increased space efficiencies is predicted to go on for longer than previously anticipated. This will likely reduce net absorption rates.

The report also finds that the increase in real interest rates could hurt the value of the office sector, particularly as long-term leases are seen as less effective.

It added that if supply grows quicker than expected, rent growth will slow down. However, the uncertainty of the pandemic has left the future of the market in limbo.

This trend has been similarly outlined in a recent JLL report, which found companies are taking a wait-and-see approach when it comes to future leasing strategies.

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What To Expect From The Future Of Commercial Real Estate

The commercial real estate industry has experienced unprecedented transformation over the past year.

According to a McKinsey report, post-pandemic recovery will mean more than just bouncing back economically, but it will also accelerate the changes we see in terms of social justice, health and wellness, work arrangements and more.

While some hoped that 2021 would be a huge improvement compared to 2020, distressed sales within the hotel and retail industry in particular will continue to increase throughout the end of the year.

Additionally, working from home will continue to play a role in the future of workplace operations despite workers experiencing increased feelings of isolation and fatigue.

In fact, according to CoStar Group, corporate tenants put up 42 million square feet of space on the market in the second and third quarters of 2020.

Large cities are also expected to see a decline in population as people struggle to keep up with the high-cost of living. Instead, people are flocking to secondary cities like Austin, Nashville and Salt Lake City for a more balanced lifestyle. 

This trend is also leading to a growth in the suburbs, particularly in the Sunbelt markets. Surprisingly so, millennials are leading this exodus, starting families and finding solace in the safety and space of suburbs.

Sustainability has also become a central role in how companies operate. While green recovery has taken big steps over the last few years, this will only accelerate in 2021.

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Encouraging Women To Return To The Workplace

Women have disproportionately been impacted by job loss since the beginning of the pandemic due to school and childcare facilities being closed.

This is a huge obstacle for the workforce and could mean that the progress women have made over the last several decades could be halted.

Moving forward, it is up to companies to implement policies and programs to better support women professionals. This means offering leave of absence, creating return-to-work strategies, being inclusive to those who have pandemic-related resume gaps and implementing reskilling programs.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows certain workers to take up to 12 work weeks off during a 12-month period for family or medical reasons. This has long been criticized due to its limitations and lack of actual support for women and families.

As government policies have remained stagnant in recent years, it’s up to businesses to start allowing longer leave of absences and continue offering them benefits during this time.

Research has found that candidates with resume gaps are seen as unambitious and have a 45% lower chance of getting an interview.

Businesses should eliminate this bias by encouraging women to be open about “the pandemic gap year” on their resumes. Companies should also show that they are committed to bringing women back into the workplace and express that they will not discriminate against those who had to take time off over the past year.

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