People have not returned to offices in full force, companies are adapting them to the new era

21.10.2022

Although global surveys in 2021 and 2022 declared the interest of employees to return to the office for 2-3 days a week, the reality is different. According to Colliers, the actual occupancy was only 35 % in mid-2022, i.e. 15 percentage points below the expected level. Companies are therefore starting to think about new work environment strategies, which often include the reduction of office space. A different situation prevails in the sector of business services, where due to the strong growth in the number of employees, companies maintain the pre-Covid office area and often even expand it. The offices are then adapted to the needs of new ways of working.

Reduction by a third

When looking for a new work environment strategy, companies most often consider models such as Hub & Spoke, in which the company reduces the size of the main office and complements it with smaller spaces in different locations, or Flex & Core, which combines a smaller main office with membership in one or more co-working centres. However, especially the largest companies with more than hundreds of jobs often bet on people’s interest in working from home and reduce office space, usually by 20-30 %. At the same time, they do not take into account not only the ongoing interest in home offices but also the rising rent and energy prices. This also applies to companies that have contractually fixed energy prices for 1-2 years, because, according to real estate experts, this is exactly the time horizon needed to implement any changes.

In business services, on the other hand, they deal with expansion

The exception is companies from the sector of business services. Even here, the interest in working from home is not weakening, but companies are constantly growing in terms of the several employees, even at a rate of 13 percent this year. This is also why they do not consider reducing office space in the vast majority of cases, on the contrary, a fifth of the centres even want to expand their offices.

“Almost two-thirds of employees in the business, IT and customer services centres come to the workplace for 1-3 days a week, 9 % are present for 4-5 days and 29 % work fully from home,”

reveals the results of the latest ABSL the association survey its director Jonathan Appleton. According to him, the mentioned Hub & Spoke and Flex & Core models are also relevant in this sector, but with the preservation of the original size of the main office, which is transformed following the latest technological trends and methods of work and cooperation.

“In this transformation of the working environment, the new division of space into four zones is probably the most important. The first, and at the same time the largest, is to offer peace of mind for focused work, the second to enable collaboration, even remotely, the third to provide space for relaxation, and the fourth is to ensure conditions for everyday communication, such as answering the phone or quickly exchanging information with colleagues,”

calculates Jana Vlková from the consulting company Colliers and adds:

“In the future, flexibility, the ability to adapt work procedures and the form of offices to the current situation will be especially important.”

The heat can motivate people to return to the office

Office heating is currently a much-discussed topic too. However, companies are generally clear that if they do not offer their employees heated spaces, their offices will be empty in the winter, and no one will want to sit in the cold. In addition, when the temperature is reduced by 2 degrees to reduce energy consumption, the cost savings will be negligible and it will not save energy in the end.

“When the cold offices are depopulated, they will have to heat tens of thousands of households during the day, which would otherwise have their heating turned down. So when the employer provides heat, he might motivate people to come back to the office, and energy is saved throughout the country,”

concludes Jana Vlková.
The future of offices is currently such an important topic that it will be one of the main points of the annual ABSL conference, which will take place on 8-9. November in Prague.

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