They find it challenging to truly comprehend how work gets done and how the office needs to adjust to produce the right environment for their staff to flourish.
Although many people are already working in a hybrid way, the new ‘hybrid’ office is just emerging, with many businesses exploring new hybrid policies and spaces and learning from them.
As a result, employers are now eager to compare where their recently adopted practices stand against new hybrid office benchmarks.
In this context, JLL’s Global Research team and JLL Global Benchmarking Services (GBS) have combined their strengths to undertake regular surveys of office workers at scale and create post-pandemic benchmarks on the new usages of the office.
JLL has aggregated all the data collected for its thousands of clients across the world in the first quarter of this year to assess the quality and the relevance of offices today.
However, while hybrid work is now perceived as a non-negotiable element of the employer promise, how to support it properly is yet to be defined. As most office environments were designed pre-pandemic, they struggle to efficiently support the new workstyles that have emerged.
JLL’s most recent research shows hybrid work is close to equilibrium: employees expect to work 2.7 days in the office in the future and the rest at home.
That means there has to be a richer purpose to the office than the one initially anticipated. Besides supporting collaboration and socialisation, the office plays a key role in work/life separation and in establishing necessary healthy working routines.
The need for socialising and interactivity is clearly the prime driver for returning to the office - 79% of office workers consider the office as the best place to support downtime and interaction.
The office is also valued for its ability to provide access to the right set of technologies - 56% of employees find the technology in the office better than anywhere else. Office technology especially plays a key role in Asia Pacific.
Homeworking, on the other hand, scores highly on work-life balance, well-being and focused work.
Focused work remains the core of office workers’ reality: 55% of total working time during the week is spent on focused work. But, quite strikingly, half of this time is in the office, while the other half is at home, demonstrating the difficulty for office workers to fully rationalise their weekly schedule and dedicate their days in the office to pure collaboration and interaction.
Another layer of complexity in the new hybrid world is the increasing number of hybrid meetings. Workers expect that 60% of their meetings will be hybrid in the future. The ability to have an effective meeting that includes actual and virtual participants is one of the biggest challenges.
The new nature of meetings means that smaller rooms are required in the office along with improved technoloy. Efficient and easy-to-use space-booking systems are becoming essential.
JLL’s research shows the post-pandemic office must address the need for focused individual work. Staff still spend 51% of their time on focused work in the office, with concentrated individual work mostly undertaken at workstations but also in informal open-work points or dedicated focus rooms.
This surprising finding is universal for all geographies and industries. However, although many hybrid offices now tend to focus on collaboration, JLL believes enabling focused and private work is also an important part of boosting performance in the office.
To make the journey to the office worthwhile, both collaborative and focused work need to be facilitated.
As individual work and virtual meetings keep a central place in the office routine, there is now a stronger expectation from employees in terms of workplace acoustics and access to a range of workspace options that suit their individual needs. These two features are in the top three under-delivered aspects of the office experience.
Acoustics is a growing issue: people complain about the lack of sound privacy and the difficulty to retreat to a quiet space during their day. They also point to excessive internal noise levels and the absence of workplace guidelines that would make work in open areas and on hot-desking workstations less disturbed and more respectful of individuals’ needs in terms of privacy and concentration.
Open-plan and hot-desking arrangements therefore require change management efforts. While these types of work settings now tend to be more accepted by hybrid workers, they continue to raise questions about how they should be best used and how they might benefit from increased training, guidance and change management. The needs for privacy, confidentiality and concentration remain pivotal to many types of job and should be addressed more carefully.
Many hybrid workers don’t feel properly supported in their new workstyle. JLL’s research shows this is an opportunity for the office to reinvent its promise in a context where many workers have returned to the same offices that they worked in pre-Covid, even though their working styles have changed considerably. Consequently, there is a significant gap between their expectations and the workplace.
Hybrid workers consistently rate their office experience at lower levels than the rest of the worker population – i.e., those working in a single place, exclusively at home or the office – and yet they still value their office. More than others, they struggle with gaining access to the spaces they need, and they find the office noisy and stressful.
As a result, hybrid workers have high expectations of their employers. Despite enjoying huge flexibility, they have trouble in creating healthy routines and maintaining close relationships with their colleagues. They require a working environment adapted to their needs, and technology that enable work in the office to be carried out in the best conditions.
Outdoor, creative, co-working and learning spaces stand out as the most impactful but poorly provided spaces.
Brainstorming and project management tools are also perceived as very impactful but insufficiently provided.
Employers are faced with multiple challenges in the new hybrid landscape and a list of priorities that need to be addressed to ensure that their employees’ preferences are met wherever they work. The office clearly has a central role to play in supporting both focused work and collaborative tasks and it remains central to the ecosystem of work.
Hybrid has a durable presence, but it has to be organised around the needs and preferences of employees. Spaces, technologies, support services, acoustics and working patterns all play a part in creating the right working environment.