How Commercial Real Estate is Transforming the Hybrid Workspace

June 4, 2024 • Ella Krygiel - BOMA International

Hybrid work is now the most common work style globally, the 2024 JLL Global Occupancy Planning Benchmarking report states. Over 80% of organizations are hybrid and almost 50% intend to expand their policy in the next three years. This leads to the question, how does this impact facility management and commercial real estate?

Conversations with Sanjay Rishi, JLL’s Americas CEO, Work Dynamics, covers the most integral points of the report, such as utilization (the most important metric for organizations in 2024) and his thoughts about property owners needing to improve technology and overall design to coincide with employees’ hybrid schedules.

Below are tips for organizations to maximize hybrid work structures for employees:

Implement Intentional Workspaces to Optimize Employee Performance

“The very definitions of work and work spaces are expanding in this hybrid, technology and AI-enabled world,” Rishi says, as we dig into JLL’s findings on the future of work. One of the first components of the report described the different types of “work points” or seats which can make an office. For example, hotel seating, phone booths, cafes and cafeterias, are all considered “work points” that an individual may have utilized at one time or another to work, as hybrid schedules allot these flexibilities to work outside the traditional office space.

According to JLL’s analysis, the only components that are necessary in defining a “work point” in future planning are a power supply, a surface for a laptop and a supportive chair or seat. As a result of these findings, “flexibility can pose new challenges,” Rishi describes.

The report stated a rise in shared workspaces or seat sharing, to instill a sense of collaboration amongst teams. However, there is also a higher demand for focused and quiet spaces to support individual working – which is to be expected when teams are grouped together in these clusters.

What is the solution for individuals seeking quiet? Phone booths and small rooms dedicated for brief, private work calls are becoming a priority in office planning designs. In addition, smaller conference rooms are presented as additions to the traditional 30-person boardroom, to offer more intentional spaces for focused group work.

Increase Technology Budgets to Support the Adaptation of Spaces

In addition, individuals seeking more quiet spaces than just a phone booth or small conference room can expect “sound dampening” technologies to make its way out in the mainstream, as a tactic for reducing chatter in shared workspaces and improve focus time.

As flexible work schedules take center stage, arguably one of the biggest challenges of a team’s varying office schedules is not being able to determine when a space will be utilized. “Utilization data has become paramount,” Rishi states. This is where sensors come in, another form of technology expected to roll out, as a possible solution.

“There is a significant amount of investments that are going into prop tech, or property technology systems to identify an office’s utilization and occupancy,” Rishi says. “Sensors that are under the desk, on the wall or on the ceiling sense if a person is at the desk – and even sense when a phone of laptop is present. These are integrated to space reservation systems, which are and will be essential in managing occupancy.”

Enhancing conference room technologies and investing in IT modifications are also key technologies featured in the JLL report.

Invest in Utilization Data to Track Occupancy Rates

Utilization was named the most important metric for organizations in 2024 by JLL. Utilization is the percentage of time that individual seats of spaces are occupied over a specific time, such as working days, shifts, etc. Historically, vacancy rates have been considered most important when considering occupancy planning, but now that many organizations are switching to seat sharing or collaboration spaces (more so than individual seats) this is not the defining factor.

Adaptability seems to be a key word when considering the present – and future – of office expectations, as more than 70% of organizations have flexible attendance policies. For many teams, there is a lack of predictability for when employees are expected to go in office, as many organizations only require a certain number of days for employees to come in, not necessarily specifying which days they will be.

In fact, JLL’s report found that 87% of organizations are encouraging their employees to work from the office at least some of the time today and that the average number of days in the office in 2023 was 3.1 days globally.

What does this mean for the future of work? Rishi predicts that there will be an increasing need for governance and program management of hybrid programs for effective in-office engagement of work groups. “While hybrid programs were in place at many organizations even before the pandemic, the size and scale of these programs today is leading to new workplace design elements, technology and policies to be integrated into a fulfilling experience for everyone coming into the office,” Rishi says.