Workplace Index: Return-to-Work Increased. So Did Remote Work

Article originally posted on HERE on February 16, 2024

Even though the pandemic lockdown is four years in the past, the work-from-home trend is still with us. However, the trend continues to change as employees push return-to-office mandates and employees continue to push back for remote work.

Eptura’s “2023 Workplace Index” provides a deep dive into this topic with five takeaways:

  • Visitors per office location and check-ins per location exceed pre-pandemic levels, “demonstrating the value people place on in-person meetings,” the report commented.
  • The average number of days booked in the office increased year-over-year, demonstrating that more people are interested in face-to-face collaboration.
  • Mid-week continues to be popular for in-office meetings, with most coming into work on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
  • Asset-dependent businesses must get ahead of preventative maintenance strategies rather than settling for reactive repairs.
  • Businesses can reduce building C02 levels with more efficient space and asset management.

Paul Phillips, chief technology officer with Eptura, told Connect CRE that more established hybrid work trends mean fluctuating office space demand. On the one hand, some cities are experiencing increases in return-to-office trends – the Asia-Pacific, for one, is experiencing economic growth, with a focus on in-office culture. “This mirrors its rising desk bookings,” Phillips said. On the other hand, “San Francisco’s tech-heavy workforce leans toward remote work, leading to lower booking numbers,” he added.

This means that building owners and managers need to break away from how facilities were managed and operated before the pandemic and focus on the reality of what’s happening now. For example, the hybrid model requires more flexibility in facilities management, especially in “a world where 30%-40% of people are booking desks the day before, or on the day,” the report said.

Furthermore, technology improves connectivity. Building owners and managers should also use technology and data for more effective decisions. The report pointed to visitor management systems as an example of how real-time data on space bookings could be used to find out who is entering a space, “where they’re going and when they leave,” the report noted.

“The findings underscored a need for asset-dependent businesses to focus more on asset management strategies to avoid costly reactive repairs and to reduce building C02 emissions through better space utilization and more efficient asset management,” Phillips explained.

The report suggested that ESG is more than spewing less carbon into the atmosphere. In addition to environmental concerns, ESG focuses on social issues, like how an organization treats its employees. The report noted that this revolves back to issues important to employees while impacting retention and occupancy.

Overall, the increase in room and desk bookings could signal the success of back-to-work mandates. But it also means that people are more willing to come to the space to collaborate in person rather than over Zoom or by phone.

But the hybrid model isn’t going away. “There’s a need for adaptable workspace solutions to accommodate fluctuating demand better,” Phillips commented. Identifying midweek days as peak periods for office attendance suggests more effective resource allocations during these periods. Furthermore, focusing on preventative maintenance and management can reduce more costly reactive repairs. Finally, better space utilization can reduce overall emissions.

“By acting on these insights, building owners and asset managers can optimize space usage, enhance asset performance and foster a more sustainable workplace environment,” Phillips said.