WHO IS COMING BACK TO THE OFFICE AND HOW ARE THEY DOING IT?
Updated: Nov 1, 2022
Written by: Brooke Ferman
As a Research Analyst, Brooke specializes in research capabilities, providing support for the Colliers Columbus Office, Industrial, Retail, and Multifamily Groups. She is responsible for executing data reports, maintaining a commercial property database, reporting quarterly trends, performing data analysis and utilizing statistical information to predict future behavior in the market. She also assists the marketing and research director on special projects and corporate initiatives. Keep reading for Brooke's insight on companies returning to the office, and what that looks like moving forward.
Tenant Summer Survey Results Interpreted
Conducting the Survey
Our research team surveyed the tenants of Colliers | Columbus' managed office properties to see how different companies across industries are returning to the office. As evident from the data, companies are at different stages of returning to the office, with roughly one-third (33%) of companies reaching near full capacity. More than half of the companies surveyed have 50% or more of their employees in the office at one time. Many of the companies with under 50% in the office cited flexible work from home policies being the reason.
Sixty-three tenants responded to the survey, giving their perspective and insight into what they are noticing in the current office environment. The chart below shows what industry the respondents are from; the industries are vast, but the majority are from professional services and engineering/manufacturing.
What type of business is your company's focus?
Influence of the Size of the Company
We were interested to see if the national size of the company had any correlation with the percentage of employees in the office. We found that the smallest companies had the largest relative number of individuals back in the office. Mid-size companies had roughly even spreads across the return to the office. Larger companies of more than 1,000 employees saw mixed results. Our survey showed that only three of the companies surveyed are incentivizing employees to come in.
This survey was indicative of the current state of the office. While many companies are allowing employees to work from home, large corporations such as JP Morgan Chase have been pushing their workforce back into the office. Deloitte, for example, has offered reimbursements for commuting costs. Human resources advisory firm, Gartner, found in a survey of its own that 25% of companies have adopted some sort of incentive program, such as free lunch, to lure employees back into the office. Hybrid seems to be the most popular option, showing that both employees and employers are looking to get back into the office in some capacity.
Influence of the Incentives
Workspaces are different than what they were years ago and the way people view them has changed since the pandemic. Companies are now looking to strive for a “healthier” view of work and the environment. An article from Good Earth Plant Company Inc. stated, “It’s a simple approach. Introducing elements of nature, including natural light, fresh air, and organic materials like real wood, stone, and plants. Employees now want the best of both worlds: the focus and comfort of working from home, along with the ability to return to collaborative workspaces to be part of a team, contributing to the return of a robust economy and enriched lives. But they want the workplace to support their well-being and be at least as supportive as the alternative at home.”
Changes to the Office Space
When asked if there are plans to make any changes to their office layout, 14% of respondents said they have made changes, 11% said they haven’t but plan to and 75% said they haven’t and don’t plan to make any changes.
Regarding the respondents that stated they have made changes, many sited expanding their office space. Reasons for the expansions include more space and separation between workspaces, as well as creating more meeting or reception areas. In one instance, a respondent noted changes being made to add more amenities to their office space, including a wellness room and game room. Another respondent detailed an office remodel in addition to expanding their space.
A Small Step Forward
Although working with from home continues to be popular among employees, employers have stated that they are going to continue to encourage coworkers to come back to the office, even if it is only for three days per week.
An interesting find from the survey is that coming back to the office is heavily influenced based on the type of industry. Many education, engineering/manufacturing and insurance companies have about half in the office at one time. Financial services, government and technology companies have around 25% back in the office at one time. Those in healthcare, law, non-profit and professional services have around 75%-100% of staff back in the office at one time.
Hubble updates its weekly blog about every company’s back-to-office strategy. Like our research shows, hybrid is what most companies are aiming for with at least two or three days in the office. The article indicates over 25 large companies’ approach for its workplace policy.