It’s no secret that we live in a changing world of work; a more fluid, flexible world that’s driving a hybrid work ecosystem of which the office is only one piece. How employers support optimum productivity and engagement for their people across the entire landscape of this hybrid work ecosystem demands new thinking and new technology. The physical workplace is an important and integral part of this ecosystem that needs to be actively managed to drive operating efficiencies and minimize the impact on our environment. Occupancy management and planning models that meet this radically new set of competing demands must be different as well. My team at JLL, the world’s largest provider of occupancy planning services, has focused on re-imagining approaches to supporting occupancy within the built environment to maximize the operational efficiency of the workplace and support a highly productive, engaged workforce, today and into the future of work.
Existing trends, accelerated
Trends toward a more fluid, hybrid world of work began before the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has merely accelerated those underlying trends. For example, pre-pandemic mobility programs introduced a level of unpredictability in space demand that resulted in seat sharing as an alternative to assigned seating allocation methods. As a result of the largest work from home experiment in history, business leaders are recognizing that knowledge workers can get work done in a variety of settings. Increasing mobility and greater user choice will result in an more erratic demand signal (need for office space) on a daily, weekly, and longer-term basis. We need methods enabled by digitally intense tools to account for this new micro supply and demand dynamic.
A recent JLL study highlighted that 67% of real estate decision makers are increasing workplace mobility programs post-pandemic. People and space tracking tools and procedures introduced when assigned seating was the norm were already shifting; however, the pace of change is being fast-tracked to efficiently capture the new metrics that matter – and to be able to deploy for portfolios of scale. Increasing workforce agility will likely place strain on other static processes and models forcing us to rethink our approach. As organizations embark on their journey to reimagine the workplace, how occupancy is supported will need to adapt to support multiple workstyles simultaneously.
Even with this new mindset and new working habits, it’s become clear that the office still plays a uniquely important function as a place for optimum collaboration, connection, and celebration of culture – enabling the kind of interaction that’s essential for productivity and engagement. In fact, an overwhelming number of people – about 75% according to a recent JLL study – still see the importance of working in the office. The need to effortlessly connect people and teams when they choose to come into the physical workplace will be amplified. Thinking about and planning for these changes, and other aspects of what will emerge post-pandemic can’t begin soon enough.
Dynamic planning for a dynamic world
It’s important to look at all aspects of this “next normal” through a client-centric lens that’s laser focused on understanding the emerging challenges presented by the hybrid workplace ecosystem. We’re undergoing a disciplined approach designed to satisfy those unmet occupier needs, improve organizational agility, and enhance user experience to improve human performance and employee engagement. Another equally important dimension of this body of work aims to maximize utilization on both a short and long-term basis and integrate into the broader portfolio optimization process. The results we’re seeing thus far are promising – reduced real-estate footprint requirements, decreased OPEX costs, and lower carbon emissions.
Obviously, there’s more to this new fluid work ecosystem than time split between the office and home.
The nomadic nature of people’s jobs is as important as ever and will only increase with time. This is where the hotelification of the workplace comes into play – not just in terms of the hospitality-inspired experiential elements emerging in our workplaces, but through the adaptation of methods and technologies tailored to meet the future challenges of occupancy management in the workplace. Along the same vein, we believe a frictionless workplace is essential for the future of work. With robust digital tools that allow users to self-move, reserve spaces and utilize digital wayfinding, we can shift our thinking from “control” to “enablement”, empowering our employees with better work-life balance.
Changing work habits impact not just how many people are in an office at any given time; they also impact why people choose to come into the office, what they want to accomplish and with whom. Space allocation methodologies and seat assignment approaches in various combinations over different time horizons can create a dynamic solution that can be configured to meet clients wherever they are on their re-imagine journey. By simply varying the degree of dynamism of our solution, we can effectively support traditional workstyles through to the most progressive.
Workpoint and portfolio utilization are essential to provide foundational data sets to achieve both efficient management of occupancy within the built environment, and to provide actionable insights needed to drive portfolio optimization and workplace transformation initiatives. It’s not enough to simply visualize and analyze data – our research shows that we need to help clients “get the data” in a non-capital-intensive way. When stitched together with other harvesting methodologies, we’re able to convert micro data to macro data to provide a homogeneous view of portfolio utilization – which is simply show up rates or attendance. This ability elegantly transitions the solution to support strategic occupancy planning, workplace, and portfolio initiatives.
Planning for tomorrow won’t work with yesterday’s tools
Trying to provide small fixes to outdated occupancy models won’t work to meet these needs. There is a need for innovative thinking while increasing the digital intensity of delivery models that will allow the industry to enable new methods, and at the same time, improve consistency in operations.
As part of our exploration, we’re experimenting with technology that helps us go beyond space bookings and reservations in the quest to better manage the ebbs and flows of people into a space to manage oversubscription to space and drive collaboration essential for human performance. Transforming the client journey is achieved in part by significant cycle-time reductions during key steps in the occupancy planning process. One such area is streamlining the requirements gathering and workplace programming step by taking advantage of the digital exhaust of other software platforms.
The time for a paradigm shift is now
As real estate is typically the second-highest cost of business operations, forward-looking organizations need an always-on space optimization solution that reduces real estate expenses and environmental impact, while enhancing employee experience and human performance. As space need becomes increasingly more irregular and how people work in the office continually evolves, precise, real-time response to those demands becomes more critical to the performance of each employee, and to the organization as a whole. The greater your ability to anticipate and respond to shifts in occupancy needs, the greater your long-term operational efficiency.