Daily Digest News – April 14, 2021

Daily Digest April 14

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:

Is Everyone Aboard The Suburban Office Train?

Some flexible office operators are optimistic about the growth of suburban hubs in the future as people move away from the cities to seek more space and a lower cost of living.

A report from Workthere revealed that 17% of 100 global operators believe that this transition to the suburbs will be the biggest change in the industry over the next five years. 

Shifting their efforts towards the suburbs allows operators to not only diversify their portfolio, but also gives them a better opportunity to accommodate the growing number of workers who want to work closer to their homes.

“The operators have definitely bought into the opportunity, the big question is to what extent it will happen,” said Cal Lee, head of Workthere Global.

Lee added that tenants have said they want to give their employees a bigger say in where they work, leading many to consider the hub-and-spoke model.

However, organizations are still in the experimental phase of their new workplace strategies, so it is unclear whether this trend will stick or not. In fact, a Bisnow survey of 1,200 commercial real estate professionals revealed that 17.4% of respondents want to work in a suburban outpost, while 56.2% would prefer to return to a central hub office.

In addition to the migration away from cities, some operators are expecting management agreements, online booking platforms and transformed retail spaces to become more popular in the coming years.

Credit: Canva

UK Workers Want To Maintain Digital Transformations

Research commissioned by The Workforce Institute at UKG and conducted by Workplace Intelligence revealed insight into how employees and business leaders view the massive digital transformation that has occurred over the past year.

The research showed that 86% of UK workers are enjoying the benefits of these advanced technologies, with 38% fearful that their employer will return to the pre-pandemic way of doing things.

However, this seems unlikely as 75% of UK decision makers said they believe that digital transformation has accelerated their projects between 1 to 3 years into the future.

This transition has been widely well-received by employees. Along with the 75% of employees who said they used at least one new technology over the past year, 86% of UK workers gave their organizations high ranking for its incorporation of necessary technology needed in the midst of the crisis.

On the other hand, 44% of workers stated that their company’s response to the pandemic could have been less hectic had they implemented these technologies prior to the global health crisis. 

Moving forward, employees agree that these technologies help them perform their roles much better, with 60% hoping to keep these advancements in the future.

“One year later, organisations are seeing the fruits of their digital transformation labour and it’s now imperative to have a technology roadmap to aid them in thriving throughout the remainder of 2021 and into the future to keep pace with developments to not only protect their bottom line, but also meet the needs of their people and customers,” said Peter Harte, group VP, EMEA, UKG. 

Credit: Bigstock

Why Offices Are Incorporating Living Walls

Living walls have become a common theme in corporate environments in an effort to provide workers with a sense of calm.

These walls, riddled with real plants and greenery, bring the outdoors inside. Along with helping workers ease their minds, they also help clean the air, reduce energy costs and enhance the health of employees.

Matthew Barlow, vice chairman and director at Savills, recently showcased the company’s new North America headquarters in New York that features living walls on the 11th floor.

“I worked at a company called Delos, a technology firm and pioneer of the WELL building standard,” said Francesca Gentile, a Savills wellness and workplace strategist, who is credited for introducing the walls at Savills. “The whole concept at my previous firm was, ‘How do we bring the outdoors into indoor environments?’ because, as humans, we have evolved an existence for thousands upon thousands of years outdoors. That’s actually our natural habitat.”

As people continue to spend most of their time indoors, health and wellness have taken a big hit. That is why companies like Savills are incorporating a biophilic approach to their office design.

Gentile introduced the company to the “Naava” wall, which features plants grown in pods that are inserted into a wall. Once the plants are fully grown, they cover the background and take over the entire wall.

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Studies have shown that incorporating biophilic displays in buildings can help humans feel more at peace and be more productive. In fact, a study from Terrapin Bright Green revealed that health care costs can be cut down if greenery is included in the workplace.

Credit: Naava

Flexibility Is Key For The Future Of Work

Organizations are encouraging employees to return to the office, and while some employees may be eager to come back, things will never look the same.

While in-person work arrangements make it easier to foster collaboration and socialization, the flexibility that remote working offers also has its own benefits, such as less commute times, better work-life balance and even enhanced productivity.

According to a YouGov survey of the UK workforce, 40% of respondents said they would prefer flextime or part-time arrangements, but only 20% actually had these options available to them.

So while returning to the workplace is an inevitable part of the future, it is clear that employees do not want to come back full-time. This is especially evident among working parents who are trying to juggle childcare with their professionals responsibilities, and those who are caring for elderly relatives.

Knowing this, some employers are attempting to provide more work arrangements to help recruit and retain their staff. For instance, PwC’s UK division revealed that employees would have a say in their start and finish times, where it expects workers to “spend an average of 40-60% of their time co-located with colleagues, either in our office or at client sites.”

Instilling this trust into workers without providing certain employees more privileges helps improve job satisfaction, as well as employee morale.

Credit: Canva

Flexible Office Firms May Not Expand Their Teams

Although the flexible office industry took a massive hit last year, some analysts believe that flex space could have a revived purpose within corporate operations.

It’s clear that corporate members are going to take up a big portion of operators’ business in the future. For instance, WeWork’s recent Securities and Exchange Commission filings showed that half of the firm’s memberships are enterprise clients.

Some corporations have committed to adopting hybrid schedules, remote working, thus reducing their real estate footprint. Although this could mean more opportunities for flexible office operators, companies have simultaneously realized they can do more with less. 

“I am not sure if there will be a lot of hires within the flex space industry,” said Liz Burow, a workplace consultant and former WeWork design director. “I think all the fluffy jobs are done or gone; all those people went on to other careers. Companies realize they can do a lot with a lean team, or have consultants and vendors handle design or operations.”

However, some operators have taken the opportunity to expand their teams. Industrious, which added 1 million square feet of space last year, added to its digital team to enhance its virtual meetings. It also hired more members to its financial team.

A report from Workthere revealed that 79% of these spaces could turn a profit in near future as demand for flexibility grows.

Credit: Canva

What To Consider When Transitioning To A Hybrid Work Model

The past year saw the workforce switch from one extreme (the traditional 9 to 5) to another (working from home full-time).

While the transition to remote work was mostly due to necessity because of the global health crisis, the future of work will likely situate itself somewhere in the middle.

According to data from New Future Forum, the majority of knowledge workers are anticipating a more hybrid future moving forward, with only 17% stating they want to return to the office full-time and 20% stating they want to work remotely full-time.

At a global online brainstorm for IBM employees last year, 60% of staffers said they would prefer to be in the office at least one to three days each week and 72% said they view the office as a place for collaboration and team activities.

For IBM and Slack, this proved that they had to commit to offering a more hybrid model in the future. However, the firms understand that in order to achieve the best outcome, this arrangement will need to be tweaked along the way.

A decentralized team can lead to loss in communication and hinder the flow of work throughout various teams. However, time can help workers get in sync and allow organizations to reap the benefits of this work model, such as greater diversity and increased employee engagement.

To ensure a health transition to hybrid working, leaders will need to clearly and consistently communicate with employees about their expectations. 

Credit: Canva
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