The return to offices has been a gradual process, staff are looking for a balanced working life and so employers are seeking ways of making the commute to the office simpler, writes Garret Flower, CEO and Founder of ParkOffice
The media talks about the “return to office” as some impending mystical time. You would almost be led to believe that one day a switch will be flicked and boom everyone will be back. The reality is very different.
For many, the return to office is currently happening; for many more, it happened months ago. While large numbers of multinational companies have been understandably slow to return to the office, many SMEs and indigenous employers have been back to the office for months now. So what can we learn from these companies?
Through my work, I’ve been lucky enough to have a front-row view of the return to the office for tens of thousands of employees across hundreds of employers in over 20 countries around the world. Here are some of the key takeaways:
People do want to go back, just not all of the time – Don’t always believe what you read in the papers. It seems every day there is another report from a remote working software provider which is outlining how the office is dead forever and that nobody wants to work from the office ever again.
On the ground, this is playing out very differently. There is an undoubted segment of employees who would be happy to never see the inside of an office ever again. By and large though, workers are looking for balance.
The rigidity of 9-5, Monday to Friday might be a thing of the past for most employers. However, staff are still looking for socialisation, connection, and community. On average, we are seeing the majority of employees returning to the office. Some work from the office most of the week, others might only pop in once a fortnight to recharge their remote working batteries.
Employers are now expected to be more hands-on when it comes to commuting – while there is a definite role for the office moving forward, the expectations around the office have changed massively. People like to get in and about the office but they aren’t willing to re-engage with arduous commutes.
More and more we are seeing an expectation on employers to make the commuting process easier for hybrid staff. This can manifest itself in many ways, on a basic level it might look like increasing bike racks and changing rooms or flexible start times so people can avoid busy public transport.
However, for many companies, particularly larger companies, it always leads back to one issue – parking. Pre-COVID over 70% of companies assigned all or some of their parking spaces to certain staff on a fixed-term basis.
This meant that a director was given a parking space, if they weren’t in the office, the space would lie empty. Employees accepted this cultural quirk as an unfortunate fact of life. This has all changed.
Many staff are demanding parking certainty so they can travel to work safely. The good news for employers is hybrid working means companies will have more space than ever before. All those assigned spaces will now be lying empty a lot more often.
Businesses are turning to new solutions to cater to this increasing demand for parking flexibility among staff.
Getting the commuting mix right removes a massive barrier for return to the office and the companies who invest time and money in this space really reap the benefits.
Businesses are struggling to find their real estate sweet spot – so how much space does your business need anymore? Workplace planning used to be quite easy, employee attendance was close to fixed, and working out the exact floor space required was a simple formula.
This has now radically changed. You might have 30% of staff in on Wednesday, 10% on a Thursday, and 60% on a Friday. This poses a short-term challenge of tracking who is in and when from a COVID safety perspective.
In the long-term, it raises a much bigger question: just how much office space do you actually need? I’ve seen some companies return to the office after almost a year at this stage. They underpinned their whole return with software that allowed them to track occupancy.
Now they are in a position to work out exactly how much space they need, taking anecdotal opinions out of the equation. This is unlocking massive savings for their businesses.
Get ahead of the game and focus on developing the data points you need to find your real estate sweet spot.
Garret Flower is CEO & Co-Founder of ParkOffice.io, employee parking management software that enables companies to optimize employee parking.