Liberated Work: where does the corporate workplace go next?
As hybrid working widens the scope of where people can work, a new Australian report explores what the fate of the corporate office might be and how that fits into expectations of flexible working
As Covid-19 restrictions continue to ease across the world, the era of ‘full-time work from home’ is ending and hybrid policies are coming into effect. But workers will not be returning to the office as they knew it before the pandemic, according to the survey results in a new report from flexible space provider Hub Australia, produced in partnership with WORKTECH Academy.
The report, called ‘Liberated Work’, explores the impact of hybrid working on the corporate real estate market and how the office might fit into new patterns of hybrid working. It found that four out of five corporate workers in Australia will not go back to the traditional office full-time.
The findings of the report are based on interviews with industry experts from across the world and survey results from 500 Australia-based workers. Of those surveyed, only 21 per cent wanted to return full-time to the traditional office environment. So, what does this mean for the future corporate real estate?
Expectations for flexibility
Flexibility in work is no longer a perk of the job. Several surveys during the course of pandemic have found that employees are demanding flexibility in where and when they work, and the Liberated Work report is no different.
Almost six in ten (57 per cent) of employees surveyed said they would forgo a pay increase or promotion to secure flexibility of work locations in the future, while 53 per cent said they would take a wage sacrifice to have more flexible work hours. Flexibility is increasingly valued by employees. If they don’t get it, they will leave – as evidence from the US and UK’s ‘Great Resignation’ wave has proved.
But flexibility does not mean that there is no place for the corporate office. The report found three hybrid working policies which proved to be the most popular with employees. These include flexible work hours, a minimum number of days in the office per week or month, and flexible days with a booking system to go into the office. There is still a natural pull to go back to the office, but what might the office look like in the future?
Where will people work?
The corporate office has become part of a wider ecosystem of places to work since the onset of hybrid working. During the pandemic, the choice was either to work from home or come into the office. But now, the ecosystem is growing again.
The survey found that 58 per cent of respondents said they expected to be working across multiple locations in 10 years’ time, including the traditional office, coworking spaces, home and locations of choice.
Brad Krauskopf, CEO and founder of Hub Australia, said that work has been ‘permanently unshackled from physical spaces since the pandemic and leaders now need to consider policies that allow employees to be the judge of how, when and where they work best’.
The ecosystem of workplace is still evolving as everyone in the workplace industry – developers, landlords, organisations, technology developers and employees – continues to learn from the application of hybrid working. The report predicts that technology will have a growing role to play to bring the ecosystem together so activities such as collaboration and creativity don’t suffer.
Part of the ecosystem will see the rise of workspace models such as ‘space-as-a-service’ (SpaaS) which includes coworking spaces, hub-and-spoke arrangements and suburban work hubs, according to the report.
What happens to corporate real estate?
The survey results on the fate of the corporate office reflected divided opinions. Almost a fifth (19 per cent) of respondents said that the office will become obsolete in the next decade, while a similar number of people (21 per cent) believed that current hybrid trends will not last and the office will soon become the main place of work again.
This paints an interesting dilemma for landlords as they forecast demand for real estate over the next decade. During the pandemic there was a prevalent fear that office leasing demand will shrink in the face of hybrid work, but survey data suggests that there is still an important role for the office to play.
The report found that there are three major reasons why employees still want to visit the office: collaboration with colleagues, access to technology and improved productivity. These are key aspects that corporate occupiers will look for in their future leases, coupled with their employees’ demands for flexibility.
The report suggests that ultimately landlords will be forced to provide more commercial offices on flexible terms to retain relationships with tenants. Now is the time for landlords to plan for how workforces will access space in the long term. Creating diverse environments to meet the demands for ‘liberated work’ will be essential.
Download the full ‘Liberated Work’ report here.