Company after company is weighing competing forces as they try to decide whether they will reduce their office space post-pandemic.
Barclays is on the cusp of making a big decision. It is currently weighing whether to scale back its real estate footprint in the US, UK and India, according to anonymous sources cited in a Bloomberg report.
The Barclays board has not made a final decision on the extent and timing of any measures, people with knowledge of the matter told the publication. One hint was provided by Finance Director Tushar Morzaria, who told investors that depending on how the pandemic goes and how working behavior goes, they may have too much real estate in Manhattan.
Barclays is hardly alone. Company after company is considering competing trends as they try to decide whether they will reduce their office space post-pandemic. The reasons are well known and of-cited: employees prefer working at home, at least some of the time, and the reduced footprint will also reduce costs.
On the other hand, many landlords and tenants are firm believers that the office will come back, likely in a changed role. But, nonetheless, it will still be necessary.
Weighing in on the debate is JLL, which conducted a survey of 2,000 office workers in 10 countries. The survey found that a majority want to work remotely over two days a week on average, double from before the pandemic. And three-quarters of employees want to continue working from home regularly.
“Companies of all kinds are seizing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the office model and lean into workforce preferences,” says Marie Puybaraud, director of global research at JLL.
The JLL survey shows that while work will change, it doesn’t diminish the need for offices. Nearly three quarters of respondents want the ability to come into an office. Seventy percent consider the office as the best place for team building and connecting with management.
Almost half of the respondents expect offices to offer spaces to socialize. Puybaraud thinks the office will still be an essential part of the work-life mix. As companies look at how they should rethink and redesign their existing spaces to meet the new working patterns, she thinks companies may need more space to facilitate the changing work pattern. Already, spokes, satellite offices near where people live are emerging to help them find a better work-life balance.
Companies that have a strong work-life balance will have a leg up in the war for talent. Respondents to JLL’s survey said it is now more important than securing a comfortable salary. Three out of four people want employers to support their health, wellbeing and nutrition, while a third are asking for a work-from-home allowance.
Some companies, such as Google and Shopify, are already addressing these concerns by delivering lunches, providing furniture and equipment or offering cash allowances, according to JLL. Flore Pradere, director of research at JLL, says the pandemic has shown companies the importance of taking responsibility for remote workforces.
“There is a huge focus on mental health, social and emotional wellbeing,” Pradere says. “You feel empowered at working in your own home, but you might feel like you’re losing a sense of belonging as well.”
Source: “Workforce Preferences Will Drive the New Office Model“