Comfy and Enlighted, subsidiary companies of Siemens and providers of intelligent and sustainable workspace platforms, have this month released findings from their The New Workplace Reality report, revealing that while the move to flexible working is widely accepted, preparedness to implement such a strategy is not yet fully realized.
Commissioned by Siemens from industry analyst firm Verdantix, the study polled 75 corporate real estate (CRE) executives from global companies with annual revenues of over $1 billion on the strategic considerations of redefining workforce models due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Matthias Rebellius, managing board member of Siemens AG and the company's CEO of Smart Infrastructure, commented, "Our study results indicate that enterprise companies are considering how the seismic shift in work impacts top-line objectives such as productivity and sustainability. At the core of any business is the health and wellbeing of its workforce. We understand the criticality of a smooth transition to the new ways of hybrid working because we have made a global corporate commitment to this ourselves. Our real-world experience puts us in a unique position to advise and assist enterprise organizations through this universal transformation."
Among the new study's key findings:
- While the majority of respondents (83%) have shifted permanently to a hybrid work model, most (88%) are not prepared with change management processes to implement the shift, and 25% of respondents are still firming up their return-to-work strategies.
- Maximizing business productivity is the top concern for corporate real estate executives, with flexible working seen by 99% of respondents as a critical enabler. Sustainability was noted as the second highest priority by 91% of CRE executives.
- The emphasis on hybrid workspaces has transformed the role of the corporate real estate executive, with over half experiencing major role changes, of which 93% cited having more strategic influence.
"We see the movement to hybrid working as a fundamental change in how people connect to their co-workers and their workspaces," commented Stefan Schwab, CEO of Comfy and Enlighted. "Employees need applications that help them engage in activity-based work in new kinds of spaces, collaborating with others where and when it makes sense. Corporate real estate executives need ways to understand, track and adapt to shifting working models, leveraging technologies and data insights for smart building optimization and sustainability. Our solutions address these related, yet diverse needs."
Hybrid work is here -- but the uncertainty of 'how' is still pervasive
The study found that the complexity of transitioning from a traditional office-based model to hybrid has been further compounded by the emergence of COVID variants and inconsistent timing of global vaccine rollouts.
The research indicates that many executives are still determining the processes and next steps to return their employees safely back to a hybrid office environment. Issues such as a changing capacity limits, new policies for onsite working and a lack of understanding on how activity-based workspaces should be managed are driving the uncertainty around how to implement a hybrid work model.
"We are still unsure on the plan for working patterns. Currently, we are conducting an employee survey to gather an understanding of the preferences of our employees," commented a real estate manager for an insurance company, as quoted in the study.
Priorities for CRE execs include productivity, sustainability, space utilization
The study found that as companies strive to balance worker flexibility with company collaboration and culture, considerations such as employee productivity, sustainability and building decarbonization, and existing real estate and technology investments ranked high on the list of priorities.
Maximizing business productivity is a leading priority amongst corporate real estate executives, with 59% ranking it as very high priority and 41% ranking it as high priority. The second most important business initiative for real estate executives in 2022 is energy efficiency and sustainability, with 91% of CRE executives considering it a very high or high priority.
Nearly all respondents (99%) view flexible working as imperative for maximizing business productivity, with 45% ranking it as very significant and 54% regarding it as significant. Because respondents viewed flexible working as the critical enabler for optimizing productivity, it accelerated companies' readiness plans for office re-openings.
Corporate real estate leaders become more strategic as a result of the pandemic
Corporate real estate management has long been viewed as a support function to the business, notes the study's authors. The research found that 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. Almost a third of executives also cited more interaction with C-suite executives, fortifying their elevated position.
Managing their organizations through the most significant health crisis of our time, CRE leaders are finding themselves at the center of critical business decisions around employee health and well-being.
"My role has become significantly more strategic, with increased interaction with the finance department to ensure alignment on major organizational decisions, " stated the real estate manager for insurance quoted in the report.
The new report, concluded in August, is the first in a series of pulse studies examining the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on working models, real estate plans and business priorities at large commercial organizations. To gain an up-to-date insight from corporate real estate executives, Siemens commissioned the independent analyst firm Verdantix to undertake independent, anonymized phone interviews with 75 executives in real estate, workplace and facilities management roles based in North America, Europe and APAC.
All respondents held senior roles and work for firms with annual revenues of over $1 billion. Verdantix asked these respondents about their evolving working model and real estate plans, business priorities, job role and responsibility changes, and technology investment plans.
To explore all of the study's findings and analysis, download the full report, which includes other workplace insights.