The tug-of-war between employers and their workers over return-to-office mandates continues, and employers in some quarters around the world are displaying confidence in their mandates by investing in office space, according to a global survey from the Paris-based Capgemini Research Institute.
However, that doesn’t signal an end to flexible and hybrid work schedules, according to various reports.
A survey in November of 2,000 organizations across 10 industries and 15 countries found that 25 percent plan to increase their office space in 2024—up from 4 percent in 2023, according to Capgemini's report, Embracing a Brighter Future: Investment Priorities for 2024.
But the findings suggest hybrid and flexible work schedules “are here to stay,” and employers aren’t planning a return to a five-days-a-week in-office schedule, according to the report. Survey respondents were at director level or above, spanning various functional areas.
“Hybrid work will be about mass customization, allowing every employee to customize working environments to their personal circumstances, career or life stage,” Jean-Pascal Tricoire, chairman of Schneider Electric.3, told Capgemini researchers in an earlier report.
JLL, a real estate services company, said the number of U.S. employees facing new office attendance requirements in the first quarter of 2024 “pales in comparison to last year’s mandate.” In its U.S. Office Outlook report for the fourth quarter of 2023, JLL noted that 459,500 U.S. employees will be called back to the office in Q1 2024, compared to more than 1,152,500 workers in Q2 2023.
“The volume of new mandates will slow significantly in 2024, as fully flexible companies have become an extreme minority in the private sector,” JLL reported. Attendance policies at major employers, it said, “continue to gravitate toward three or more days of mandated office attendance per week.”
A North American-centric report released by PwC in October also said hybrid work schedules will not disappear. The report is based on data and insights from more than 2,000 leading real estate industry experts.
Employers whose business models support remote work will keep reducing their office footprint to save on rent, PwC predicted. It’s hard to change work and commuting behavior patterns that have developed in recent years, it noted—even with corporate demands, incentives and plans by some employers to track badge swipes and connect in-person attendance with compensation and performance ratings.
EY’s The Future of the Workspace report from March 2023 said the office itself is not going away.
“More than half of U.S. C-suite business leaders plan to invest in commercial real estate by enhancing or expanding their real estate footprint, while two-thirds are either leasing or plan to lease suburban office space,” EY reported.
However, the space will be used differently.
SHRM Online collected the following articles and reports on what employers are doing with their office space—and the expectations of employees returning to the office.
Three Things Workers Now Want from the Office
If office workers have to return to their employers’ workspace, they have some expectations of what that space should include. Relaxation spaces, healthy food services and outdoor areas top the list of amenities that can lure workers into their city offices as they seek a feeling of connectedness with colleagues and environments that are as comfortable as home, according to a survey of office workers in the Regenerative Workplace report from JLL, a global commercial real estate and investment management company.
Annual Report by Urban Land Institute and PwC Outlines ‘Great Reset,’ a New Era in Real Estate
Office buildings have lost their appeal to investors, with sales transactions down more than twice as much as other major property types. While there is a call for the repurposing of high-vacancy office buildings, industry leaders caution that not all can be converted economically, and a better solution may be demolishing them and repurposing the land.
Return to Office
Many employers are continuing their efforts to bring employees back to a physical workplace after several years away. Whether they’re looking at a full-time onsite requirement or a hybrid approach, employers are seeking ways to meet the needs of the business and remain competitive while balancing the requirements and preferences of their workforce. Look below for the latest news and updates, as well as critical member-only resources.