Top ten trends in office work

What is the present of office work and what is the future? The truth is that they are becoming more and more similar. The return after the restrictions caused by the pandemic, the permanence of teleworking or the arrival of mixed models, new strategies in the design of spaces, an increasing use of technology and communication tools... are some of the elements that will determine the evolution of the structures and configuration of office work.

CBRE Group conducts an annual global study on the concerns and forecasts of large corporations regarding offices. The following trends are an extract from the Occupier Sentiment Survey Report 2022, developed from a survey of more than 100 companies across Europe. Among them, 20 are Spanish.

Trends in office work

We will see that all the trends are directly related to space, and thus converge towards the concept of Office 5.0: the integration of new technologies, design and organisation of the workspace in the interests of greater efficiency, comfort and well-being.

The increase in occupancy and the return to the office, the growing use of communication and technology, real estate strategy, growth plans, flexibility, the consolidation of teleworking, the balance between business regulations and personal preferences, the implementation of new workplace strategies, and the entry of new designs. These are the ten trends we will examine:

Increasing occupancy

The end of many of the restrictions associated with the pandemic, such as the use of facemasks indoors, has led to the return of a large volume of workers to their usual workspace. Each sector and activity has its own needs and characteristics, but, in general, the return to the office has proved to be a must for most.

This increase in occupation finds in new technologies an opportunity to apply new management and coordination models. Technologies such as augmented reality make it possible to organise the return to the office in an orderly and efficient way, and provide new possibilities and coordination strategies.

Partial return to the office

‍While in Spain the return to work has indeed been an obligation for the vast majority, only 41% of companies in EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Asia) have taken the return to the office as an imperative. And in the US, just 31%.

However, the return has not been total. In fact, there are multiple hybrid models in which face-to-face and teleworking are combined. There is no predominant model as such. We can assume that it will be necessary to await further developments to draw conclusions. In more than a few cases, it has been left to the worker to decide which model is most appropriate for him/her.

The use of augmented reality in hybrid working models makes it easier for every member of the organisation to have real-time knowledge, in an accessible and intuitive way, about who is attending in face-to-face mode and who remains in remote mode. In turn, virtual social spaces create office working environments that can be accessed from anywhere.

More communication, more technology in office work

It is essential for companies to practice a good communication strategy. In this way, each employee can know what options he or she has regarding the model that corresponds to him or her, or the one that suits him or her best, and how to organise himself or herself with the rest of the team.

In this sense, technological solutions play an essential role in optimising communication processes and enabling truly efficient face-to-face, remote or mixed experiences. Now is the time to try out online collaboration tools and information sharing software.

If we continue to take augmented reality as an example of technological implementation, it also allows to organise and communicate internally work spaces, such as meeting rooms, parking spaces, canteen seats... And, at the same time, it is an ideal tool to improve energy efficiency.

Real estate retrofitting

Only eight out of a hundred companies still maintain a pre-pandemic real estate strategy. In Spain, many companies are still testing the impact and possibilities of teleworking, waiting to make their next decisions. But innovations and transformations affecting design have already started in more than 50%.

Hot-desking, coworking, space organisation and distribution tools, such as the aforementioned coordination of meeting rooms or the management of car park reservations, are all cases of real estate readaptation that involve the redesign of spaces.  But there are many others.

Growth plans in decision-making

Only 13% of companies have not already included a change in office workspace management in their portfolio. Many companies plan to reduce space and direct the surplus to subletting, or renegotiate the lease for a shorter duration, with sustainability as a generic objective for all activity.

Telefónica has just offered its entire workforce the possibility of reducing their working day to four days, and one of the decisive tools for the reorganisation of office working time and team coordination is precisely augmented reality, through applications such as those mentioned above. The trend is spreading to a growing number of companies. Large, medium or small.

Flexible office workspaces

Flexibility, taken in its broadest sense, continues to creep into all space planning. It is the challenge of hybrid working: to have spaces that are easily and quickly adaptable to changing needs.

It is about creating office workspaces that ensure the safety and well-being of the worker, and, of course, the care of their health, which is high on corporate agendas in the wake of the pandemic.

Hybrid working: mixed face-to-face-remote model

75% of companies are committed to teleworking. Teleworking is making strong progress and is expected to increase. The same is true of mixed models which, as we already know, have important arguments in the new technologies to guarantee their effectiveness. However, it is one thing to promote telework and another to do it in the right way.

Most companies are moving towards a hybrid model, on the basis that remote work is also office work thanks to connectivity and technological tools for intercommunication. The key lies in balance: defining the time spent working in the office, the times that require presence and the time that can be spent working remotely.

Striking a balance between business rules and personal preference

Here, the results for EMEA and the US are almost identical: half of the companies are looking for a balance between generic company rules and the personal preferences of individual employees. However, very few companies offer compensation or incentives to encourage teleworking, which in itself encourages a return to the office.

New workplace strategies

The old rules no longer work. A change strategy needs to be devised that is capable of continuous transformation. Priorities change rapidly, and the speed of emergence and implementation of new technologies accelerates the process even more.

Businesses are confronting new strategies for the design and conception of office workspaces, real or virtual, by introducing adaptive and sustainable redesign plans:

- The creation and management of transformation programmes is growing.

- Increases the adaptation of "open" spaces.

- Improving the extension of services and amenities in the work environment.

- Revision of general design standards.

- Optimisation and extension of collaborative areas and meeting rooms.

Flexibility also in design

Flexibility also applies to design. It seems inevitable that transformations in office workspace strategies will include layout and design.

Project-based layout, allocation of workstations, meeting rooms and parking spaces, hot-desking and selective mobility provide the coordinates under which the office workspace trends we have just reviewed are organised.

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