Being flexible with flexible work
Prior to the pandemic, just 3.6%1 of employed people in the USA ‘usually’ worked remotely. In the UK that figure was 4.7%. Even in The Netherlands, often seen as the ultimate example of a flexible working culture, just 14.1% of the country’s workforce worked remotely. In Canada, 16.6%2 of businesses reported that 10% or more of their workforce was working remotely and like many things however, COVID-19 has completely changed all of that. As of May 29, 2020, Statistics Canada found that 32.6% of businesses, nearly double the percentage prior to the pandemic, reported 10% or more of their workforce was working remotely.
A Gensler survey found that 12%3 of U.S. workers want to work from home full time, while 70% would prefer to be in the office most of the week. In the UK, other surveys suggest that around 44% of workers will ask for permanent flexible working arrangements after COVID-19 restrictions are fully lifted.
Whichever way you look at it, work culture is set to change forever and that has huge implications for commercial real estate operators. Alongside the sizable logistical challenge of returning tenants to the workplace safely and efficiently, office owners now need to think longer term about how they are going to handle this change. They must ensure that they can be flexible with flexible work and solve one key challenge in particular: how to keep tenants loyal to their building.
Fundamentally, if tenants are happy with a workplace, employers are happy too; if tenants feel loyalty to a workspace, employers do too. However, as tenants spend less time working in their company office, building operators will now need to work twice as hard to earn that loyalty.
Start with Connection
If tenants only feel connected to a building when physically working in it, owners will struggle to build stickiness with tenants. This is where technology is absolutely vital. Embracing a workplace app that keeps users feeling connected to their building – whether actually working from there, or from their kitchen – is critical. Apps like this enable real-time communication with all users, regardless of location, keeping them connected to the operator and to each other. Our HILO network gives users access to exclusive curated offers and experiences, in and around their building community, whether they are at work or at home. It is these kinds of initiatives that will ensure users always feel valued by their workplace, wherever they happen to be.
Additionally, building operators must ensure that their tenants’ experience in the workplace is efficient, happy and meaningful. Communicating new safeguarding protocols before people arrive at the office; highlighting building events, experiences or giveaways; or providing people with access to onsite and offsite retailers and businesses at the touch of a button, are all ways that workplace apps can make the onsite experience meaningful and engaging. If users are spending less time in the building, ensuring the time that they do spend is productive and enjoyable is key to building long-term tenant loyalty in the new normal.
An industry not historically known for embracing change, now needs to ensure it does just that, if it is to cater to evolving work styles. If building operators are going to build the stickiness and loyalty to their buildings that they crave, it’s time to utilize technology to innovate, adapt and be flexible with flexible work.