If you build a shiny new office building, will your employees show up to work in it?
Many U.S. companies are banking on it because they believe working in person is better for collaboration and training young employees. So even though most employees are still working from home offices and dining room tables today, some companies are willing to spend big on showplace headquarters.
Businesses recognize there is a place for offices despite the fact that they plan to give workers more flexibility to work from home and might see cost savings from limiting their real estate holdings.
In a sign of how committed companies are to keeping offices, some 57% of the more than 2,300 office projects that giant architecture firm Gensler is now working on were started last year, in the middle of the pandemic. But as they’re building, companies are tweaking designs to reflect that offices may become spots that workers visit primarily to collaborate with others, instead of places where they toil all day, every day.
Jordan Goldstein, the co-firm managing principal at Gensler, said companies are placing a premium on having more meeting rooms with the technology to accommodate remote and in-person participants, as well as more flexible space for people to choose where they work within the office.
Mutual of Omaha plans to build a glassy new headquarters in its namesake Nebraska city that could wind up as Omaha’s tallest building.
But the insurance company says the plans for its new building reflect its commitment to flexible work. The company has 4,000 employees in the Omaha metro area but is planning a building that can only accommodate between 2,200 and 2,500 people on any given day, Mutual spokesman Jim Nolan said.
“The only way that works is by embracing remote and hybrid work,” he said.
The number of people working remotely is clearly growing because so many companies learned they could do it during the pandemic. The Society for Human Resource Management estimates the number of totally remote U.S. workers will double to roughly 36 million people by 2025. But the CEO of that trade group, Johnny C. Taylor Jr., said that will still only account for a little over 20% of the workforce. The other nearly 80% will work in an office at least part of the time.
Another survey done last year by CBRE Group, the world’s largest commercial real estate services and investment firm, showed that 87% of large companies planned to use a hybrid schedule after the pandemic, with workers in the office part of the time.
And separate worker surveys that SHRM and Gensler conducted last fall both showed that more than half of workers wanted to be back in the office at least one day a week.
But so far businesses have been slow to bring employees back. An average of 36.8% of the workforce was back in offices during the fourth week of February in 10 major U.S. cities monitored by Kastle Systems, which tracks building access-card swipes. That number has been creeping up since early January when it fell as low as 23% during the omicron surge.
Mutual of Omaha CEO James Blackledge said bringing people together in an office at least periodically will boost productivity and creativity, and having a gleaming new $433 million office should help the company attract new talent. …….