As the great work-from-home experiment extends past its one-year anniversary, workers have made adjustments to their environment and schedules and are becoming increasingly comfortable viewing the WFM model as a viable long-term solution. To counteract this trend and lure more workers back to the traditional office setting, landlords are urged to design a workplace strategy borrowing elements from the hospitality industry, according to experts participating in a webinar sponsored by essenys.
“Nothing could be more convenient than my current 30-second commute to work but this arrangement is not sustainable, nor is it something I want to continue much longer,” explained Mark Furness of essenys. “And then there are the mental health issues to consider. People feel isolated, locked into a mundane routine and yearn for human interaction and socialization. But the previous workplace model clearly needs to change.”
“The offering of a glass box in which to work is no longer good enough,” said Thais Galli of Tishman Speyer. “Landlords will now need to make people feel excited to get into their car and travel to work. This starts with improving the lobby experience, offering food and beverage options and creating an environment that is more appealing that a person’s home. Companies like Google recognized this years ago, and differentiated themselves by making the workplace fun. Other companies may offer higher salaries, but they are attracting the right talent based on the workplace experience.”
Oliver Knight of Landsec said the focus should be beyond what the four walls of the office are providing, with more attention to employee services and amenities.
“Certain companies are actually supplementing an employee’s income by paying them extra money to return to the office,” he said. “That seems extreme. We prefer changes to workplace technology that exceeds what is found at home. Or, altering the layout of the office to provide more internal meeting spaces or external collaboration locations. Again, the work environment should always be measured to the home experience.”
Natasha Guerra of Runway East urged landlords to increase flexibility across the board.
“Companies and their employees may now view working in the office as a three-per-week proposition, rather than a five-per-week one, so landlords should make provisions for this model,” she said. “They may also want smaller office space. Most importantly, remaining safe and healthy are of utmost importance, so landlords need to communicate and demonstrate ways they are improving this aspect of the office.”
Employee appetite to return to the workplace varies by industry sector (those that depend on employee collaboration are more open to the idea), age (the younger demographic is more willing) and office location (the suburbs are more appealing).
Among the tactics being used to attract workers are accelerated work-sharing programs, staggered start and end times of the workday to reduce the number of employees in the office and better accommodate the schedules of working parents and providing on-site childcare options.
Maintaining what is best for the employee in terms of safety, comfort and productivity should always be the main drivers of any shift.