FALL 2022: STATE OF THE COMMERCIAL OFFICE
What is up with the office? In this blog, our Infinity Group workspace design experts weigh in on what is happening with corporate office spaces. We cover return to office trends, design, and the future of hybrid work models. We also share what’s working (and what’s not working) for companies interested in a return to the office. Corey Edwards, Director of Client Relations, Kate Grumbles, Director of Business Development and Olivia Powers, Workplace Designer share their thoughts.
Our Director of Preconstruction Ron Wilson also weighs in on one of the hottest topics in our industry right now – the supply chain. If you’re looking for a one stop shop for all things office redesign, you’re in the right place. You can also browse our recent projects here.
ARE COMPANIES RETURNING TO OFFICES THIS FALL?
Corey: Yes, a lot of big global companies and small companies are making it mandatory. We are also seeing an increase of companies re-designing spaces with the end goal of encouraging employees back but not forcing it.
Kate: Yes. This will continue to vary by market and by company, but the consensus is people are going back to the office. Whatever happens with our economy will play a big part in this as well. Currently the employee holds the upper hand with regards to WFH, but I believe we’ll see a switch back to the employer soon.
WHICH MARKETS OR SECTORS ARE SEEING A HIGHER RETURN TO THE OFFICE RATE?
Kate: Sunbelt markets have a higher return rate currently. They were the first markets to open back up holistically following pandemic-related closures, and I believe they will continue to pioneer the way. I’m not sure there is one specific sector that is higher than others, I believe it’s very dependent upon the company’s leadership and the company’s health. You’ll tend to see hyper-growth companies back in the office, as well as companies that may be struggling through the current state of the economy.
Olivia: I think we will be seeing a big push for the “return to the office,” this fall. I believe organizations are realizing that the workplace is more than just a place for employees to work but a place to connect and collaborate. In person interaction can build culture and morale. However, I do not see the hybrid model going anywhere, anytime soon. A lot of companies that offer this type of model are using it to increase employee retention for those who value flexibility.
ARE HYBRID SCHEDULES AND FLEXIBILITY HERE TO STAY?
Corey: Yes, although we will be seeing more of a definition of flexibility in the future as companies get a grasp on the importance of in-person collaboration.
Kate: Yes – they’re not going away any time soon. I like to look at it as “fluid” work. Companies need to hire and retain talent, and this is a huge piece of that. This is especially true with the younger generations coming into the workforce.
Olivia: Yes, and it is important to note that the built office is still a huge part of this model. I think it can really be successful when employees can be supported not only at home but in the office.
ARE SUPPLY CHAIN ISSUES STILL AFFECTING LEAD TIMES FOR CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS AND COMMERCIAL-GRADE FURNITURE?
Corey: Yes, but our clients who start their project process as early on as possible get the most options for materials and furniture.
Kate: Yes – it’s dependent upon the manufacturer.
Ron: Absolutely, and there’s no consistent signs that this trend is reversing any time soon. Multiple checkpoints in our process are designed to prevent this from showing up in the schedule, but the earlier the selection process can begin, the smoother the ride.
Olivia: Yes, when we specify any material or piece of furniture this is something we must take into consideration. This allows us to forecast delays and deliver projects on time and on budget.
WHAT ARE COMPANIES DOING TO ENCOURAGE A RETURN TO IN PERSON COLLABORATION, AND IS IT WORKING?
Corey: Smart companies are creating spaces that accommodate collaboration naturally. They’re not forcing it. We know from employee survey results that some only want to come into the office to collaborate. That tells us that it’s not only management and c-suite interested in a partial or full return to the office at this moment in time – employees at all levels want it too.
Kate: Companies are reconfiguring their current spaces or designing their new spaces to encourage collaboration and team meetings. Corporate offices are not just workstations and closed offices. For the first time, companies are competing with people’s homes as an amenity. That means they’re having to take a different look at how they’ve traditionally built out their space to bring people together. If the company invests in this, it is working. Companies that think their employees can come back to the same environment they left in 2020 have a more difficult time.
Olivia: Companies are adapting more of a resi-mercial type workplace. Meaning, incorporating elements that one would have access to at their home. We’re talking about amenities like a work café, a comfortable lounge area, concentration spaces, privacy. Not having access to these types of support spaces urges people to stay home. On top of this, they will have access to their coworkers and spaces to support collaboration. Together it really works to support a healthy and meaningful workplace.
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