The future of work is a work in progress

23 Mar 2021

By Bridget Fowler

New Zealand occupiers are in a better position than the majority of our global counterparts with a good deal of normality in our day-to-day office life. The next 12 + months will likely reshape the future of workplace within New Zealand, refocusing, and at time accelerating, how the changes are adapted and implemented.

CBRE has assisted a number of occupiers on a range of property needs over the last 12 months and certain trends are continuing to emerge. Though not overly different from where future workplaces were heading pre-COVID, they have hit the turbo charge button and include:

Remote working is here to stay

  • Now that remote working is an accepted element of the workplace, organisations are grappling with what type of controls to put around it. These include the ability to control high/low volume days across the week and which roles are better suited working remotely.

BUT the office is also here to stay

  • The office has an important role to play in the future. There is a need by employees to still be part of a social collaborative space, where they feel more empowered and enjoy the flexibility of the work location. It’s the new way of working.
  • Though there was definite nervousness after the first two lockdowns, COVID-19 has underscored the connection between buildings and wellness. We are seeing employees returning to the office space faster after the last two lockdowns, as they become more aware of protocols and have comfort their employers/landlords are providing a workplace focused on their safety and well-being.
  • With the hybrid working approach, office utilisation will be the biggest consideration of occupiers over the next few years and must form part of their long-term portfolio strategy.

Technology is critical

  • A good tech platform pre-COVID-19 is now a requirement to adapt and maintain productivity and have capacity to cope with higher demand bridging the gap of mixed presence collaboration. This enables multiple attendees to have the same user experience whether at work or remote.

Employees are favouring ‘we’ space vs ‘me’ space

  • Activity-based work has continued to be a focus (with many occupiers looking at an increase in collaboration space from 25% to 40%).
  • The increase in collaboration space provides a less rigid workspace which is backed up by stringent H&S and wellbeing. The workspace needs to ultimately be an attractor to entice workers back into the workspace.

Partnership between property, technology and people will be key

  • The changes in workstyles have seen the thoughtful integration of space, technology and people. By bringing all three together, an organisation should attract and retain greater talent.

Defining and measuring workplace and employee performance will change

  • Data will drive better understanding of how building and space is being used.
  • We expect to see a shift to output drivers for buildings and employers to measure the overall success. KPIs will be more tangible and measurable and employers will need to make sure employees are fulfilling their output expectations, especially if working remotely. This requires entrusting staff to self-manage, but the HR element will continue to evolve to make the workspace, whether working remotely or not, an efficient and more attractive place to be.

Amenities will focus on hospitality and services

  • Occupiers want to have options for flexibility within a building’s offering. Co-working space has now become a requirement for many to provide flow over space as and when required. This may need further consideration over time as these additional spaces may not be as cost-effective overall as initially thought.

Our three big takeaways are:

  • Stop and take stock. Take time to reassess your work needs through careful planning that is backed up by data to really understand how your workspace is utilised and will perform over the coming years.
  • Provide a really effective hybrid approach so no-one is disadvantaged if working from home. Training and engaging those working remotely will be so important, so they feel connected into the culture of an organisation.
  • The importance of blending people, technology and property together to establish a solution to retain and attract. These will differ between occupiers, but all three parts of the business now play a big role to the future workspace – so you must get it right.