As the pandemic forced many of us to shift a work-from-home routine, some people predicted that “the office is a dead concept” and that it will never return. I would agree that the office as we knew it is actually really dead, but the “new office” is here and all of us need to adapt to it, writes Petr Florián, Associate Director, Office Leasing at Avison Young in the Czech Republic for Property Forum in an opinion piece.
Nowadays, we are used to working from anywhere and everywhere and it seems pretty normal. It is hard to believe for newcomers to the world of employment that in very recent history most of us woke up, showered, got dressed and fought our way through morning traffic to sit behind our desks in the office. Every day of the week.
A lot has changed in the last two years. The pandemic struck and changed mindsets and challenged these long-established corporate norms. With the state-mandated implementation of masks, quarantines, testing protocols, social (and working) distancing, office managers suddenly found themselves at the forefront of the fight to stop the spread of the virus. As a result, many of us had to shift overnight to a complete or partial remote work-from-home routine.
Most thought we need to get through these few weeks of disruption and then things would return to normal. As we now know – that did not happen. Organizations and their employees soon realized we were in this for the long haul. All of us needed to adapt to the new normal as digital transformation accelerated.
Welcome to the “new office”
Some people predicted that “the office is a dead concept” and that it will never return. I would agree that the office as we knew it is actually really dead, but the “new office” is here and all of us need to adapt to this also.
Although the circumstances which led us here are unfortunate to say the very least, the new way of working maybe what we really needed for a long time. Now is the time of reckoning; the pandemic appears under control and there is a shift away from remote working to a hybrid model and businesses are starting to wonder „What does the new normal look like and how should we adapt?“
For businesses that hoped to just go back to the way things were, good luck. There is no way to put this genie back in the bottle. Our Avison Young survey at Property Directors Forum, a community and network for occupiers, clearly indicates one thing – 91 % of office workers do not want to work from the office full-time anymore. A clear majority with 80 % of respondents prefer a balanced hybrid approach with 2-3 days in the office. The main reasons are more flexibility, better work-life balance and less commuting. However, a lot of respondents also stated they miss social interaction and would like to have the possibility to come to the office.
Most organizations and businesses understood that pretty quickly and some new words appeared in our lexicon, “hybrid working” or “everywhere workplace” are now the buzz words but how do they translate to the workplace itself?
Focus on the workplace
The rise of the importance of well-being in the workplace has been here for many years however the pandemic has accelerated that trend massively. It has reinforced the fact we have to create a workplace environment catered to the employees' needs with a focus on health, productivity and well-being.
Currently, in discussions with businesses, we often deal with the challenges of how to create an environment which attracts people to come to the office, to retain them in the organization and to pursue their careers within the organization. That is because this becomes the driver of the overall productivity of the company, not how many hours one sits behind a fixed desk per week. Our survey showed companies learned their business could be executed remotely, for example in the technology sector 95 % of respondents provided this feedback. Avison Young data shows there remains a diverse range of perspectives on the future size of the office space. But what appears to be clear is that it will change; 49 % of respondents expect downsizing of 25 % or above; with only 26 % expecting no changes.
Above all, the workplace design will change, the objective today is to enable employees to engage with the culture and purpose of their employer and enable individuals to benefit from those missed social interactions. Executive offices and sterile open-plan layouts are out. Modern high-tech meeting rooms, sound-proofed video-call cubicles, lounge-style seating and community hubs are in. Generally, workers do not like density and want less crowded offices. Organizations need to reshape their premises to become collaborative social hubs, not just a workplace. The key message is that the „new office“ approach is needed if companies wish to successfully support the hybrid approach to work in the future.
Office leasing market in the Czech Republic
Avison Young in the Czech Republic has recently expanded its service offer and is now providing its clients with Office Leasing services. Petr Florián joined the team and took the role of Associate Director. He will be responsible for business development, office occupier services and developing a full range of services to be provided to office landlords and developers.
Although the office market activity in the Czech Republic was lower over the past two years in comparison to 2019 pre-pandemic figures, we see positive trends returning to the market and leasing activity is growing again. Organizations are still cautious, but they are realizing the office is still needed, just in a different way than before.
“We at Avison Young aim to provide full-scope of advisory services here in the Czech Republic so our presence in the office leasing market was a no-brainer,” says Ryan Wray, Managing Director of Avison Young in the Czech Republic.
Petr Florián, Associate Director adds “I believe we are on the brink of a new era, where we will witness the rebirth and transformation of office leasing and the function of office space. Building a new department from the ground up is always an exciting challenge. We aim to provide comprehensive services to guide our clients through all the changes happening on the market and all challenges that lie ahead thanks to the current geopolitical situation.”
Other services offered by global commercial real estate advisor Avison Young in the Czech Republic include ESG consulting, capital markets, valuation, property management, technical and facility management, industrial leasing brokerage and research.
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