How the office can help businesses get ahead in the talent race

The hybrid work dynamic is forcing organisations to reimagine workplace and portfolio strategies in order to attract and retain employees 

In the last 2 years, we've seen hybrid work cement its position and became a marker of change in the workplace. Employees today are demanding not only hybrid work options, but also work environments that promote health and well-being as well as sustainability - with 8 in 10 companies saying their employees expect their workplaces to have a positive impact on the environment. This dynamic is forcing organisations to reimagine workplace and portfolio strategies in order to attract and retain employees, as competition for top talent intensifies.

In today's flexible, work-from-anywhere era, the office presents a key opportunity for organisations to differentiate themselves, engage employees and embrace the future of work. The last 2 years have been critical in redefining the role of the office.

Even with the increasing uptake of remote work, 77 per cent of corporate real estate (CRE) professionals still believe that the office will remain central to their organisation's ecosystem. Leaders today are looking to the office to drive transformative real estate strategies to better support employees and meet their evolving needs. The focus has become more human-centric - it's less about what employees can bring to the workplace, and more about what the workplace can do for employees.

JLL research shows that 33 per cent of organisations in the Asia-Pacific already plan to refit or redesign their office space in the next 12 months - and there is no better time to start building future-fit workplaces to improve talent attraction and retention.

Quality over quantity

Hybrid work may be here to stay, but investments in office real estate show no signs of waning. Instead, 89 per cent of CRE leaders expect their total footprint to stay the same or increase. More importantly, 4 in 5 agree that investing in quality spaces - which include flexible floor plans, improved amenities, and features to enhance health and wellbeing - is a greater priority than expanding total footprint.

Quality spaces have become the clarion call of employees, as organisations seek to enhance the employee experience. Post-pandemic, the office will offer a new purpose as a destination for collaboration. As such, corporates will need to reconsider how the office can best support workforce agility through greater investments in flexible working spaces, collaboration zones, and rest and recharge spaces. As employee expectations play a leading role in driving future workplace strategies, the provision of quality space will become a top priority.

Sustainable workplaces are no longer a nice-to-have

While the proportion of flexible and quality office space is expected to increase in the next 3 years, sustainable spaces are also high up on employees' agendas. Today, environmental, social and governance (ESG) ambitions have become mainstream - and with buildings accounting for 60 per cent of carbon emissions in cities, the real estate choices that business leaders make will either facilitate their net-zero carbon journey or impede it.

Expectations related to sustainable real estate and green offices are changing, and today 88 per cent of CRE leaders expect to maintain or increase investment into embedding zero-carbon criteria in new location requirements. Designing a sustainable office with energy-efficient facilities and circular design principles can be a great way to not only accelerate net-zero carbon efforts, but to also attract and engage employees.

Intelligent data to drive real-time decisions

In our increasingly digitalised world, building a future-ready office cannot happen without the right tools and technology. But beyond collaboration technology, CRE leaders must double down on smart tech investments, as they are key to unlocking new opportunities to boost performance and productivity and improve workplace settings.

With corporations looking to elevate the performance and efficiency of every aspect in their organisations, technology and greater visibility of data can lead to better decision-making. In the context of the office, for example, sensors that detect a change in quality of air, temperature or humidity can feed the data to the relevant computer, which can then drive real-time fixes to bring the office back to its optimal condition and deliver better employee experiences.

However, most organisations today are still in the early stages of their CRE technology and data journey, with only 13 per cent saying that they collect data on an ongoing or real-time basis. The good news is that more organisations are already planning to accelerate their investments in technology to optimise building performance and leverage data and analytics to drive real-time decision-making.

In my 30 years in real estate, I have seen momentous changes in how we design, build and occupy offices, but I firmly believe they remain central to an employee's experience at a company. A future-fit office is one that incorporates quality spaces, sustainability and technology to elevate the workplace. Today, these elements come together to create a compelling offer for current and future employees, who will prioritise companies that align to their needs and values.

To be competitive in attracting and retaining the right talent requires a rethink of the workplace, and those who do not invest in the office will risk falling behind.

The writer is chief executive officer, JLL Asia-Pacific.

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