Are these two ‘types of office’ the new hybrid working models?

12 Aug 2021

Are these two ‘types of office’ the new hybrid working models?
If you have a desk-based job role, chances are you’re currently working from home, or have done so at some stage this year. Whether you’re someone who is relishing it, sick of it, or a little of both, the big questions running through employers’ minds are “How can we make our workplaces more attractive and encourage a return to the office, even if for half the week?”

New data from a recent CBRE report confirms that CBD vacancy is up (across retail and office). However, the past 16 months has provided businesses with the time to review their hybrid working models. They have sought to forecast what their ‘new normal’ may mean for employees, office design, operations and even recruitment.

What we are beginning to see are two different types of offices emerge in a post pandemic environment.

1. The ‘office as an attractor’

Experience is importantly now being layered into offices. As a minimum, employers have already set out to make the workplace and working zones safe and easy to access for employees. Businesses are committed to provide assurance that environments are hygienic and that there is room to work, distantly too, for all types of work required, particularly if it is focused or private work.

For occupiers in large buildings who are provided building management through their landlord, innovative technology on digital and experience platforms such as Host has been a crucial support during the pandemic. They quickly enable valuable services with automated, streamline ways to connect and communicate directly with the building community. These extend beyond simple checking in and out, but also enable a way to access a full spectrum of wellness resources, access catering offerings and bookable spaces in an easy safe way. Host facilitates a direct and personal way to communicate with all tenant customers, operational staff and even visitors on premises to provide updates and work requirements that are changing at a rapid pace.

The challenges employers will need to solve are, competing with time and encouraging employees to invest in the commute, and the perception that when people arrive at the office, half of their colleagues are still at home. This hybrid workplace may lead to exclusivity and silos and may contribute to a poor workplace culture, which is crucial to avoid. Therefore, employers need to create this attractive workplace environment and to maintain a positive social culture that we’re inherently drawn to.

2. The ‘office as a destination’

This hybrid format enables workers to deliver their roles mostly from home and to come into the office space to socialise and deeply connect and collaborate with partners and clients whereby everyone is required in the office together. This is a revolutionary change to the hybrid office approach and closes the gap to what the office means and its true purpose.

The locations of the office themselves are being rethought. Some companies are entering into new location leases outside of CBD’s and into smaller but more vibrant neighbourhoods.

Workspace design will enhance lifestyle through space that optimises wellness, fitness and more meaningful work relationships. Some businesses will also be considering owned conference facilities, residential accommodation and specialised client spaces and brand showcases too.

Amongst many other elements, these new spaces will allow full autonomy over capacity, operations and the time to meet, factors that have so far been unmanageable and interrupted throughout the pandemic.

Needless to say, technology and use of full stack experience applications like Host, will be required to maintain the seamless integration of large-scale premises and to allow employees across varying teams and divisions to come together quickly.

A new culture is the key required to drive this style of office. A destination workplace doesn’t exist on a nine to five, it is flexible and requires trust. The generation in this new culture is sensitive and mindful about work, and is one that asks questions, interprets data and who collaborate to invent this new future.

An example of this forward-thinking hybrid model is a PwC initiative, linking KPI’s to the salaries of graduates. Meeting milestones will be the indicator of earnings, and helps ensure commitment amongst employees, while offering them flexibility in their hybrid working styles. To support this function and enable lifelong learning, PwC is investing $15 million to establish a PwC Academy.

Another example being deployed by sophisticated landlords is the embedding of workplace consultants into their teams to help their tenant customers navigate this new world of office. Charter Hall, Lendlease and Dexus are all providing these services in commercial office real estate. It’s a concept borrowed from their retail landlord cousins. Whereby food consultants were employed to help food court retailers learn the intricacies driving efficiency in service, delivery and sales from their food court shops for decades.

Should ‘office as a destination’ create momentum, it’s likely we will begin to see this two-fold in office leasing. Either a move to more, but smaller local premises, or alternatively an increase in larger office space. The latter in brand building locations and superior grade facilities that business can use in different ways. Time will tell which office style Australian companies will begin to implement. It’s likely that any changes will occur in a staggered process – with larger nationals leading the charge and setting examples for others to review and follow.