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Employees’ Expectations for Offices in the Hybrid Work Model

REAL ESTATEEmployees' Expectations for Offices in the Hybrid Work Model

Hybrid work has become the standard after the COVID-19 pandemic, with 92 percent of those who work at least partially remotely expecting the ability to continue doing so. “Offices will have to adapt significantly to accommodate employees and encourage their participation in office life,” says Przemysław Chimczak-Bratkowski, Managing Partner at ThinkCo. The company’s report shows that while companies have significantly decreased leasing volumes, employee expectations concerning both workspace standards and office building designs have evolved.

According to recent Eurostat data, approximately 10 percent of all employees across the EU work from outside the office for at least half of the week. However, looking only at office workers in Polish cities with over 100,000 inhabitants, the percentage rises to 52 percent, with 40 percent of people working exclusively from the office and 8 percent working fully remotely.

“Hybrid work has become very popular and will stay with us for years. This is one of the main changes that have occurred with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees have realized that they do not need to work from the office anymore and are demanding this flexibility,” says Przemysław Chimczak-Bratkowski.

The latest ThinkCo report, developed in collaboration with Ikea and CIC Warsaw, shows that 92% of respondents working remotely or in a hybrid model would like to continue doing so. The 2023 global survey reveals that over two-thirds of workers would consider changing jobs if forced to return to the office completely. Certain groups of workers are even more resistant to traditional office work. While 55 percent of men prefer to work from an office, only 25 percent of women feel the same, with 56 percent of women preferring to partially or completely work from home. When considering remote work, it is common to speak of the new work approach amongst the younger generation, or Generation Z. In this group, 63 percent of respondents would prefer remote or hybrid work.

“Offices will have to adapt significantly to attract workers and encourage their participation in office life. They will have to offer spaces that are not ready-made solutions, as we saw five or six years ago, but evolve according to the new reality. Designing office space to cater to various types of work – quiet, creative, and social activities – as well as creating an environment around the entire office building to make it attractive is currently a significant challenge for the office market,” states Chimczak-Bratkowski.

The most significant advantage of remote or hybrid work models, according to employees, is avoiding the need for commuting, resulting in saved time and reduced costs. Workers value the convenience of being able to wake up later, work in conditions comfortable for them, and have greater flexibility. The ability to balance work life with duties like child care is also appreciated.

Conversely, 65 percent of surveyed managers and representatives of management staff want employees to show up in the office more often, believing it improves the quality of cooperation. A similar percentage (59%) believe that working in the office strengthens the company’s organizational culture. Still, there is also a group of employees who find office work less efficient and comfortable. According to a survey conducted by Deloitte, 36 percent of office workers most miss having a private workspace. Many also note the lack of peace, lack of eating areas, poor lighting, and noise.

“There is a certain group of employees who have become accustomed to remote work and have adapted their entire operational procedure to this model. Face-to-face work and physical meetings with other employees often result in faster and more efficient problem-solving than remote work can offer. That is why employers are trying to attract employees to the office – they want them to show up regularly, even if not every day. On the other hand, there is a large group of employees who have seen that office work is not necessary for them. As a result, we have a clash between those who say, ‘be in the office a few days a week,’ and those who say, ‘we have been working remotely for two to three years, and it has been working well, so why should we now spend time in traffic, commuting for an hour to work and an hour back,'” says Przemysław Chimczak-Bratkowski.

According to the ThinkCo report, before the pandemic, the percentage of actually occupied office spaces in Europe averaged about 70 percent. At the beginning of 2023, it was down to 55 percent. However, this decrease does not mean that offices are losing their importance; their role is changing along with the work model — evolving towards spaces for meetings, teamwork, building relationships, focusing, and working away from home noise. Offices are now a tool often employed in HR strategies to attract and engage employees.

“Offices should be primarily convenient for employees, taking care not only of the ergonomic position at the desk but also of thermal, acoustic and visual comfort. They should provide the best possible working conditions, including diverse spaces, conference rooms adapted to the realities of the hybrid model, attractive common areas, accessible meeting and relaxation zones that facilitate rest and team bonding, as well as spaces for individual and group work,” reads the report, which also notes that 85 percent of office workers prefer workspaces for a maximum of 10 people. A vital aspect of friendly offices is fostering social interactions that strengthen employees’ attachment to the organization and reduce turnover.

Companies attempting to attract employees back to offices mainly need to consider the location and commute — only 9 percent of office workers in Poland walk to their workplaces. The multipurpose surroundings of the office building also matter. According to a Skanska survey, 62 percent of workers indicate the importance of having a grocery store within the office building. They also appreciate having a canteen (55%), restaurant (54%), and café (40%) in their workplaces. These needs are often neglected — in 2023, about 40 percent of workers reported the lack of such facilities in their office buildings. By comparison, in 2018, only 15 percent reported these shortcomings.

“We see that employees expect high-quality services, both within the office building and in its surroundings. This is one of the major changes resulting from the pandemic. We have understood that going to work allows us to get many things done, such as shopping, visiting the drugstore, meeting friends after work, or dropping off children at nursery or kindergarten. Therefore, all this should be guaranteed in the surroundings of the office building. If these are not guaranteed, employees will state that there is no need for them to commute there. They look at the whole environment of the office building, and developers and investors have to adapt to it,” says the expert.

Close proximity to dining places, cultural establishments, shops, pharmacies, gyms or childcare facilities enables the balancing of professional and private life. Green spaces within the office building and its surroundings help alleviate stress and positively impact mental health and concentration. Aspects related to ecology and ESG are increasingly important to employees. According to data cited in the ThinkCo report, ‘green offices’ can boast a 26 percent increase in worker productivity. Simultaneously, 93 percent of workers in such offices report better well-being and job satisfaction. Almost 80 percent of surveyed company representatives state that employees expect their workplace to have a positive impact on society.

ESG issues are essential not only for employees but especially for companies — owners and tenants of office spaces. Possibly from 2028 onwards, all newly constructed buildings in the European Union will have to be net-zero emissions, and the EU Taxonomy imposes uniform and verifiable requirements in this respect. The EU’s non-financial reporting requirements are also gradually becoming stricter. As a result, no large international fund invests in buildings without green certificates, and tenants increasingly pay attention to office compliance with ESG standards.

“This issue is being very closely analyzed by almost all owners of office buildings. Issues are being raised about the carbon footprint generated by buildings, employee-related aspects, building certifications and the requirements that will be imposed on buildings in the context of new European legislation. All this has a significant impact on the business, on how buildings are valued, who will be willing to buy them in the future, etc. The business world is very much calculating these costs. Often they still do not fully understand the impact of ESG, but today everyone agrees that it is a necessity, our new reality, and all office buildings need to adapt,” emphasizes Przemysław Chimczak-Bratkowski.

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