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Embracing the New Flexible Work Environment

By Michael Griffin

Employees are showing a distinct preference for flexible work environments, and employers are embracing this new dynamic. When COVID-19 forced people into their home offices, it became clear that they could perform focused tasks very well, without the commute. However, they miss the coffee talk and in-person collaboration that the office offers. Some fear opportunities for career advancement may prove to be more challenging, and company culture suffers while employees are at home. This newfound freedom of working at home, while simultaneously missing so many things about the office, has given birth to the hybrid worker. A variety of new preferences are emerging in the workplace. 

Gensler recently polled thousands of workers all over the country and found that approximately 30% of employees want to work exclusively from the office. However, 50% prefer a hybrid model in which they work a couple of days from home each week and the rest in the office. Only 20% of those polled stated they never want to return to the office. In summary, 80% of employees want to continue to come to the office to some degree. 

Is it time to re-think your real estate? The short answer is, maybe. Though half of employees want to split time between home and office, most of them (90% according to Gensler) want their own space when they come in. Yes, they want to have their cake and eat it too. Leadership must weigh the costs and benefits of providing everyone their own desk even if they rarely use it or switching to a shared workstation arrangement. The solution can dramatically impact the amount of real estate needed. 

Another factor to consider is how office space is built-out. For years, the trend in corporate America had been large, efficient floor plans and open concepts, full of personnel. However, a highly infectious virus has shifted this thinking. In the same study, Gensler found that approximately 69% of employees are in an open workspace, but only 46% actually prefer the open style. It appears that people feel safer when they are in a more private office setting.

Time will tell if these trends stick, but it is certainly fostering conversations in the breakroom. For those who are coming into the office to hear it, that is. 

Michael Griffin is Principal at Transwestern and specializes in Tenant Advisory + Workplace Solutions for companies in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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