Guest Post by Stefan Schwab, CEO of Comfy | Enlighted

Consensus among company leadership is clear: hybrid working is a critical tool for maximizing business productivity while navigating the unparalleled amount of change and uncertainty in the last year.

While many companies have adopted flexible working as a permanent structural change, implementing change management across their organization remains difficult for the majority of companies, according to a recent study that Siemens commissioned with the independent analyst firm Verdantix.

As part of the study, the firm conducted interviews with 75 corporate real estate executives1 on the strategic considerations of the return to the office. The major finding revealed by the report: 99 percent of firms are turning to flexible work models as the solution to balancing competing business priorities. Additional key findings demonstrate the widespread, long-term effects of COVID on the office of the future: from the function and layout of the office to the evolved role of CRE executives in the new normal.

The corporate real estate function evolved in influence and authority due to the pandemic

The pandemic’s profound impact on the way people work elevated the function in the organization, with 93 percent of respondents reporting that they have greater strategic influence in key business decisions.

More interaction with C-suite executives (33% of respondents), progression in job responsibilities and strategic influence, and an emphasis on collaboration and communication with HR and IT transformed the role for 44% of respondents.

The office of the future will be dominated by hot desks and collaboration spaces over traditional assigned workspaces

The office of the future will aim to inspire collaboration, flexibility and productivity. Currently, traditional assigned workspaces make up, on average, 45% of real estate portfolios. This is expected to reduce to 37% by 2023. Activity-based workspaces and hot-desks – currently constituting 28% and 27% of real estate portfolios – are expected to increase to 34% of real estate portfolios by 2023.

Portfolio transformation aims to improve efficiency and reduce operational costs

With more than half of firms reducing the square footage of their real estate portfolios since the start of the pandemic, this trend will continue over the next two years. Twenty eight percent of firms will reduce their portfolio by up to 10%, and another quarter of firms will reduce by more than 10 percent. This transformation will bring down operational costs, while adapting the office to the new way of flexible work.

At the core of any business is the health and well-being of its workforce. Employees and leadership resoundingly agree that flexible working balances the human need for connection with companies’ emphasis on productivity and efficiency. By adapting working preferences to suit employees’ personal lives, the movement to hybrid working signifies a fundamental change in how people connect to their co-workers and their workspaces while redefining the meaning of work in the new normal.

Additional insights and complete findings from the report are available here.

1 The New Workplace Reality report, Siemens and Verdantix, October 2020. All 75 respondents held senior roles and worked for firms with annual revenues of over $1 billion, based in North America, Europe and APAC. The study was concluded in August 2021. 

Stefan Schwab is CEO of Comfy | Enlighted