What Are Your Company’s Biggest Workplace and Real Estate Challenges for 2021?

November 2020
T3 Advisors

How we work, where we work, and the costs associated with workplace and employee wellness are all undergoing rapid evolution, fueled by pandemic upheaval. The work environment—whether at HQ, a remote office, at home or elsewhere—will be different. And eight-plus months into the pandemic, most companies are still unclear what workplace plan to put in place. So, how can companies prepare for the future?

To navigate the chaos, we interviewed Michael O’Farrell, a veteran of Corporate Real Estate from TempCRE, to discuss changes in the workplace and real estate strategies for 2021 and beyond. The biggest takeaway from our conversation? Put your employees first by asking the right questions—and the ideal workplace environment for your company will come to light.

In Michael’s words, “We are now facing an opportunity to change how we work, where we work, and when we work. And the best approach, I think, is to be as employee-centric as possible.”

How does being more employee-centric relate to real estate?

“It’s all about employee choice and what makes the employee happy and productive. When you check those boxes when it comes to real estate, the workplace becomes a new recruiting and retention tool.” 

At this point, your employees have worked in private home offices, at kitchen tables, or in spaces like WeWork. When you gather those perspectives and understand what your employees hate, love, and miss out on in their current environments, you’ll begin to understand how to frame your future workplace around their unique needs and requirements.

So how can company leaders begin to check those boxes?

“Take advantage of this period as a moment in time that you can learn from. Right now is not ‘the new normal.’ However, we can learn from this as well as the past in determining the future of the workplace. In other words, we have to consider the future of the workplace in the context of what we were doing before. 

Having a lot of conversations with small teams of people and asking what’s working, what’s not, and even what they’re lacking within home offices to be happier provides the answers regarding the best place for your people to work in the future.”

Once employers have those conversations and gain the data, what is the next step?

For example, if they found out that their workforce is split between three ideal approaches—remote, in-office, and hybrid—what’s the next step for this complex dynamic? How do you help the workplace accommodate everyone? 

“First, I would bucket the types of employees by percentages, including the people who would remote work full time, people who would come in the office every day, and the hybrid route. (The fourth bucket) will be people who won’t come to the office but need a place to work. Once you understand your percentages, you’re ready to build the real estate strategy you need.” 

“Second, I would advise company leaders to look at growth. How are you projecting to grow in the upcoming years? And when you grow, will those (employee work style) percentages stay the same? Or are more people going to migrate into the office? Or maybe more people are going to migrate away. And that’s a cultural question that needs to play an integral part in both HR and C-Suite strategy.” 

How, exactly, does my projected growth, and buckets of employees, contribute to a real estate strategy? 

“As you decide to keep the status quo or be flexible as you scale, it’s time to look at the numbers. For example, for the bucket of remote workers, what are you willing to spend per month per person for accommodations, versus your real estate budget? This applies to every bucket of work type. Once you gain buy-in from stakeholders on that data, you’ve developed the foundation of your real estate strategy.”

The bottom line? A real estate strategy of the future begins with your people. And once you gain the knowledge about what your people need, it doesn’t hurt to ask a facilities expert what type of space will best accommodate these complex needs. 

Those experts should be able to strongly influence the attraction and retention of employees, how the company appears to customers, potential employees and the communities we live and work in, and help you create a work environment that promotes collaboration, connection and productivity—no matter what the future looks like.

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TempCRE, powered by T3 Advisors, matches companies with independent, highly vetted, A-list consultants to support expansion strategy and workplace design. One of the consultants, Michael O’Farrell, is a leader in the field of Corporate Real Estate and Facilities with over 20 years supporting tech start-ups by helping companies grow and evolve their workplace strategy, global expansion and service offerings.

At a time when so much about where and how we work is changing, consultants like Michael have the background to help you create a workplace you can be proud of with the services and the safe environment your employees expect. Read his article, “Another Perspective on the Future of Workplace,” here to learn more.