Workplace survey says change is key for office occupancy

Report examines global return to work trends.

Hassell has released its latest report, the Great Adaptations – 2023 Workplace Futures Survey, which provides a number of insights into workplace satisfaction.

The general consensus amongst built environment professionals that people must be lured back to the office via good design has been proven correct by the survey, with companies that have made a change to their offices and way of working post-pandemic recording a 17 per cent higher satisfaction score compared to those who haven’t.

Undertaken by Hassell Senior Researcher Daniel Davis, the report seeks to gain an understanding of the return to work phase currently being experienced by the commercial world.

“Countries and cities, which have had the longest periods of dealing with pandemic-era lockdowns including the US, UK and Melbourne in Australia are home to the largest number of ‘reluctant returners’ — employees who prefer working from home overcoming into the office,” said Davis.

Working from home for at least part of the week is now an anticipated condition amongst employees, despite concerns of recession and a tightening labour market.

“The report challenges some areas of emerging consensus — particularly that if you fear losing your job, you’d be in the office more to prove your value to your organisation but across many regions worldwide that’s not the case,” Davis said.

Other key findings include an increase in people working in the office, vibrant cities are a desirable office amenity, downturns are making it harder for employers to bring workers back into the office, and HR departments and real estate need to work together.

Free lunch and food, gardens and green spaces, good coffee, fresh air, good food and retail, and space to focus are listed as the top priorities of workers in 2023.

Davis believes that the key to crafting an exemplary hybrid workplace extends beyond one specific amenity, with employer strategy crucial to catering to the needs and preferences of their respective workforces.

“In this era of hybrid work, companies can’t afford to wait for economic conditions to change,” he said. 

“They need to be getting the basics right — something that many offices fail to do — by providing the right spaces for collaborative and focused work. And they need to stack and aggregate a variety of amenities that not only address the unique requirements of different individuals but also cultivate an atmosphere of inclusivity and engagement.

“The implementation of a well-rounded array of offerings paves the way for an enriched hybrid workplace experience that transcends conventional expectations. By publishing this report, we hope to provide answers to creating a great adaptation — a flexible workplace and an appealing culture and working environment.

“And while we can see a link between changes to offices and higher satisfaction, the most effective investments happen in tandem with updating policies to match new employee expectations,” says Davis.

2023’s edition of Great Adaptations is its fourth, which saw 3,500 office workers across Australia, China, including Hong Kong, Singapore, the United States, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Netherlands.

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