Hybrid Work Is Dominating the Office Landscape

GlobeSt. – When Julie Whelan, Global Head of Occupier Thought Leadership at CBRE, looks at the company’s surveys, she sees a clear trend—the way that employees engage with the workplace will be more flexible in the future.

Whelan said that 80% of respondents want a more hybrid workplace.

“But the nuance is that we offered them two options with hybrid,” Whelan said on CBRE’s “The Weekly Take” podcast. “One is hybrid with company guidance, and the other was hybrid, where employees have total freedom to choose.”

CBRE found that no one chose the “fully in the office” option and nearly everyone chose the hybrid approach with company guidance. Whelan says this means there will be “some degree of guardrails put in place where employees understand how to operate in the flexible world.”

In addition to looking at CBRE survey results, Whelan also scans the media landscape. She has determined that there are two kinds of organizations. One is hybrid friendly.

“Hybrid-friendly organizations are organizations that are putting media statements out into the public that make it clear that their intention going forward is to offer their employees more flexibility,” Whelan says. “Yet they do not have a distinct and clear way of how they are actually going to offer that flexibility to their employees.”

Whelan characterizes the other category as hybrid-forward companies. She says those tend to be some of the tech companies that have been in the space for longer.

“In many cases, they actually have public employee blogs where they have very clearly spelled out how their employees are to operate in this new hybrid world, post-pandemic, in terms of when they’re expected to be in the office, when they’re expected to be at home and how they can make decisions as to the type of flexibility that they are able to introduce into their job function,” Whelan says. “Obviously, the hybrid-friendly organizations are going to learn from the hybrid-forward organizations and eventually catch up to them.”

Additionally, the sentiment for the hybrid approach grew over time, according to Whelan. “We’re moving towards a more hybrid environment with company guardrails,” Whelan says.

But applying those company guardrails are and ensuring everyone gets equitable treatment makes things tricky. Fortunately, answers about the return to work should come fairly soon.

“Here in the United States, at least, we are in June and we are on the precipice of a very fast return to the office,” Whelan says. “We know that Q3 and Q4 are going to tell us a lot about what our new normal of office occupancy is going to look like. I’m not presuming that we are going to fully get there to sort of pre-pandemic levels by the end of the year. But we are going to be markedly above where we are today.”

Different groups in organizations, including information technology, real estate and legal, will soon get together and work through feedback about the new policies being put in place.

“They are going to have to continually have a feedback loop where they are able to course-correct along the way because nobody is going to get it right,” Whelan says.

Part of that feedback could come from technology. As the world opens back up, sensor technology will allow companies to understand how efficiently buildings are being used. Whelan says this technology will help companies understand when people are physically in a building, at their seats and using conference rooms.

The downside to this technology is that it opens up privacy concerns.

“We have to look at our own personal lives and how we offer up our sharing of our own data when it comes to all of the products that we use,” Whelan says. “And usually, we will do that when we are getting something in return. We are getting something that is fruitful to us.”

For corporations, that means if they’re asking for employees to give up privacy, they need to give them something in return. SHARE ON FACEBOOK