Daily Digest News – February 9, 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:

Why Companies Need To Combat Zoom Fatigue

The phenomenon that is Zoom fatigue has swept through the workforce over the past year. As companies transition to operating with a distributed team, some leaders feel the need to schedule multiple meetings throughout the week to keep a sharp eye on how employees are conducting themselves at home.

However, these unnecessary meetings take away time that could be put towards being productive. In fact, a survey found that 65% of workers stated that meetings are keeping them from completing their own work.

While the overuse of meetings seems to be an attempt of opening up communication channels and giving business leaders more oversight into daily operations, they have quickly become an inconvenience.

So how can businesses curb micromanagement and better empower employees?

Collecting data is one way to collect unbiased information about how employees are working, feeling and how projects are progressing.

Meetings often do not accurately portray the work that is being accomplished and focuses on the quantitative rather than qualitative.

Using analytics platforms like ActivTrak or Timely can help employers integrate varying corners of the workplace, from project management tools to real-time employee performance feedback, and allow leaders to view progress being made without interrupting the workflow of employees.

Not only does this allow employees to actually focus on their projects, but eliminating micromanaging tendencies proves that they are trusted by their employers. Trust in the workplace means higher levels of satisfaction and productivity.

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Google Walks Back On Enthusiasm For Hybrid Working

According to Google’s annual 10-K report, increased distancing and hybrid work models could actually increase costs and hurt its workplace culture.

Google has long been known for its alternative workplace perks, with a workforce that features full-time employees, as well as temporary workers and freelancers.

However, the company is now stating that they could see increased costs due to increasing safety protocols in their offices for when employees return and trying to accommodate hybrid working.

Despite Google being one of the first big tech companies to embrace remote working, it’s vague work policies over the past year and investments into large office spaces have left its workplace arrangements in limbo.

Back in December, CEO Sundar Pichai announced that remote working capabilities would be extended to September 2021. However, this came with the stipulation that employees would have to work in the office at least three days each week.

“Many companies in Silicon Valley have been actively encouraging presenteeism for years now with beds, restaurants and even gyms, but it’s an outdated metric for technical staff productivity,” said Martin Biggs, VP and GM of Spinnaker Support. “Our definition of productivity has to change from clock-watching and time-in-office to actual outputs. The biggest mistake I see is organisations trying to apply old strategies to an entirely new situation.”

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How Companies Are Adjusting Their Work Arrangements

As we approach the one-year mark of the coronavirus being declared a pandemic, companies are looking to identify what role remote working will continue to play in the future.

While it is evident that some companies will still offer this arrangement for the foreseeable future, not everyone will be working from home.

Tracy Hawkins, Vice President for Real Estate and Workplace and Remote Experience at Twitter, stated that the company recently surveyed its employees to see what their preferred work arrangement was.

Around 10% want to fully return to the office, while 20% want to completely work remotely. The rest want a hybrid of the two.

Additionally, technology firm Avid is gearing up to launch a work-from-anywhere program that allows employees to choose whether they want to work in the office, from home, or both.

“All of those stereotypes [around working from home] have been disrupted a bit, and now hopefully people feel like they have a choice,” said Laura Walsh, Senior Director of Global Real Estate and Workplace at Avid. “But then, I think that there are certain people who will choose the office ultimately, which I think is also interesting.”

These are only a few of the countless examples of companies reconfiguring their workplace operations in order to meet the growing demand for alternative work solutions.

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However, it is still unclear what employees will want and need in order to feel fully safe and supported in the office. For instance, some workers want to return to the office, but can’t due to their children being home from school.

Credit: Twitter

Manhattan Closes Out 2020 On A Grim Note

Manhattan’s office market struggled to rebound as it closed the fourth quarter of last year with continued low leasing activity.

According to a Transwestern report, the borough saw 3 million square feet of activity in the last three months of 2020, which is its lowest level since 2006.

Additionally, the fourth quarter saw a negative 6.6 million square feet net absorption rate for a total of negative 16 million square feet for the entirety of 2020.

Of the seven leases signed that were over 100,000 square feet, five were renewals and two were subleases. For instance, Apple subleased 116,500 square feet in Penn Plaza, while NYU Langone renewed a 623,900 square foot lease.

Even more, asking rates fell by 6.8% year-over-year for an average of $75.63 per square foot, which was marked as the biggest decline in the past decade.

Despite the grim nature of the office market in New York, the beginning of 2021 saw a welcomed spike in Manhattan leases from beverage distillery Beam Suntory for 100,000 square feet. Even more, Japanese conglomerate renewed two leases and a new commitment of an existing tenant totaling 224,408 square feet.

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UK’s Office Markets Revealing Signs Of Rebounding

According to research from CBRE, takeup of office space in cities surrounding the Central London area totaled 1.1 million square feet in the last quarter of 2020.

While this was a 138% increase from the third quarter of 2020, overall takeup for 2020 saw a 40% decline on the five-year average.

Manchester saw some of the best performance, ending the year with 349,500 square feet of transactions which was a 415% increase compared to the previous quarter.

This largest UK deal of the fourth quarter included BT Property, which pre-let a 175,680 square foot space in Manchester. Additionally, BT was responsible for the biggest deal of the year, leasing 280,000 square feet in Birmingham.

Availability also grew across the UK’s markets, increasing by 16% from the end of 2019 for a total of 15 million square feet by the end of 2020. 

“The Covid-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on the office leasing market which ended 2020 well below average. However we are starting to see a gentle recovery across the major UK office markets, buoyed by regional activity,” said Paige Slade, senior research analyst at CBRE. “We continue to see the strongest demand for high quality, amenity rich space. Whilst we don’t expect leasing demand to be strong in H1 2021, by the end of the year we should start to see demand return to more normal levels, with new space outperforming secondary space.”

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Remote Working Is Transforming Our Lifestyles

DevOps platform GitLab spent three months surveying professionals from all over the world to see exactly how they adapted to working remotely.

The “Out of the Office: How the world adapted to working remotely in 2020” report compiled responses from 200 professionals.

“The impact of COVID-19 may have accelerated the adoption of remote work for many businesses, but trends towards connectivity and increasingly digital work laid the groundwork for businesses to succeed at pivoting so quickly,” said Sid Sijbrandij, CEO and co-founder of GitLab.

Sijbrandij added that remote working will no longer be viewed as a perk, but as a tool that is shaping lifestyles.

The survey revealed that one-fourth of respondents said having “more time” was the biggest benefit to working remotely. 

Additionally, of the 56% of respondents that first shifted to remote working during the pandemic, only 1% want to return to the office.

Despite vaccines being distributed globally, there is still a blanket of uncertainty that is draped over the future of work. Now, many of these employees who recently shifted to working from anywhere are identifying themselves as “remote workers.” But will this be permanent?

One of the biggest recurring themes in the research was that remote working is transforming our lifestyles. For instance, 37% of respondents stated that they have optimized their lives to spend more time with family, while 30% have prioritized being outdoors and exercising.

“When remote work is embraced as a competitive strategy, work complements life with greater harmony,” said Darren Murph, head of remote at GitLab.

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