Going hybrid? 3 Strategic real estate tips

Contributed by Andrew Flint, a co-founder of Occupier, a transaction and portfolio management software helping commercial tenants and brokers manage their real estate footprint. Occupier’s software helps teams make smarter, more informed lease decisions by centralizing the way they work. In turn, teams ensure alignment between their real estate decisions and business successes.

The pandemic-related remote work experiment has been an eye-opener for both employees and employers. However, they don’t necessarily see eye to eye on what it means for the future of on-site operations as teams get back to work.

A 2021 McKinsey survey shows that about half of workers now want to work from home at least three days a week. On the other end of the spectrum, around three-quarters of top-level executives want personnel to be in the office at least three days each workweek. This tug of war between competing needs has had two very different results.

The first (and perhaps least expected) result is the Great Resignation, in which employees are taking their talents to companies that’ll give them more scheduling flexibility. When it comes to going back to work after COVID-19, they’re willing to make a major switch in order to find the balance they want in their personal and professional lives.

The second outcome is a way to get the best of both worlds for all parties: offering hybrid working environment solutions. In fact, the hybrid work model is gaining traction. Yet moving all employees to hybrid isn’t just about keeping everyone’s calendars and expectations up to date. Hybrid work models affect every facet of how work gets done, right down to having a major impact on real estate.

Real estate and the hybrid office of the future

Traditionally, employers have set aside a certain amount of space for their operations based on equipment needs, workflows and number of employees. However, hybrid work models have the power to change space needs dramatically. For example, employees might share workstations, limiting the need for a 1-to-1 ratio between desks and workers.

Indeed, many companies are rethinking their workplace strategies, and their leaders are reinventing their real estate strategies as well. If you’re one of them, you’ll want to keep a few tips in mind:

1. Lean into flexibility.

The sky’s the limit in terms of your workplace real estate approach. To adapt to the ever-evolving hybrid work model landscape, consider both your short-term and long-term workplace strategies.

For instance, how will you stagger your hybrid working team, and what does that mean regarding your overall footprint? Should you scale back your lease? Or will contracting now leave you unable to grow your operations in 2022 and beyond?

For every real estate move you make today, try to envision its impact down the road. Rather than just being temporary “patches,” you want your decisions to afford you with options later.

2. Refresh your tech stack.

Digital transformation is all around us. Case in point: Recent data from Pew Research Center indicates roughly four in five partially and fully remote employees use Zoom and similar platforms at least occasionally. Accordingly, your people need access to modern technologies, software and systems.

So how will you handle real estate and technology? You need the infrastructure and equipment to support a fully digital environment. This might mean making upgrades on everything from your desks to your telecommunications solutions.

When some or all of your team members are in the office, they’ll need to collaborate and connect. Plus, their projects and ideas have to be accessible when they’re telecommuting. You might want to invest in tech-driven commercial real estate software to help you see how your decisions are working over time from a data-driven standpoint.

3. Evaluate and reevaluate your real estate strategy.

Hybrid work models are just starting to emerge, which means there’s a lot of room for interpretation and experimentation. Although you might zig today, zagging tomorrow could make more sense.

Analyze your real estate portfolio on a regular basis, especially as you navigate different arrangements. As an example, if you’re seeing a lower daily on-site head count than originally anticipated, you might want to lease offices in the areas where your team members live. Or, if your lease is facing a consumer price index adjustment, you might want to negotiate improvements or reassess relocations.

Try to remain fluid and open-minded. Also, stay on top of metrics and analytics that will help you monitor and analyze the effects that hybrid work is having on your profitability.

Everyone wants to get back to economic solvency after the pandemic. Just make sure you take your real estate needs into consideration if hybrid becomes your team’s preferred working model.

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