Drive to boost workplace sustainability at risk of plateauing

Employers and employees have started to see eye to eye on some elements of the future of the office – but there remain some areas where there are key points of difference. With many post-pandemic trends now embedded, attention has turned to issues like sustainability and well-being where, perhaps surprisingly, we are not always on the same page.

In recent years our ways of working have changed dramatically and at pace. This speed of transformation is also seen in our workspaces, globally, as they cater for the post-pandemic rise of hybrid working and a fresh set of expectations from employees.


Collaboration, wellbeing and new tech have become vitally important for successful offices and workspaces. So much so that building occupiers are often demanding these credentials, with those offering the best amenities for the new way of working reportedly attracting a higher rental return.


Now, three years on from the pandemic, Mace’s Operate business has surveyed corporate real estate professionals, clients and contacts from around the world to gather insight on the needs of businesses in 2023.


Collaboration + connection = culture


With clear benefits to both office-based working and home-based working, many post-pandemic workplace strategies have focused on adapting to a hybrid model to maximise performance. Real estate is an expensive overhead for businesses with offices, so there’s little wonder employers are wanting to ensure staff are returning. But it is also true there is more awareness on the need for a workspace to be a productive and fulfilling experience -and a point of differentiation to attract the best talent.


The Mace Operate Workplace Survey found company culture was the leading benefit of meeting in a central space, for employers and employees alike. With 77% of all respondents selecting company culture as a priority, pride in what you do is universally important.


From the boardroom to the water-cooler, getting connected in-person – without the need for stable internet and a screen - is a great way to bond and boost culture.


From a business perspective, teams can generate better outputs by bouncing ideas past workmates and there will be improved conflict resolution and reduction given the ability to read body language. The benefits of in-person partnerships are clear for the individuals as well. Seeing colleagues in person boosts morale with greater spontaneity and a far deeper level of engagement, understanding and collaboration with work mates.


For most workers, sharing experiences in the real world is preferred over the virtual one.


Purpose shapes place


The Mace survey found hybrid working is expected by almost nine in 10 respondents, and over 60% ranked flexibility focused design as the most effective way to encourage a return to the office.


This approach has been a leading business response to making the workplace a functional, dynamic and exciting place to be - a crucible for productivity and a pull for employees. In the survey, 87% of respondents cited interaction with people and workplace culture as the main benefits of going into the office.


Shared priorities


When it comes to priorities for the workplace, employees and employers were on the same page… For the most part. It was clear there are shared challenges experienced by everyone in a business, which is coalescing with an increasing acceptance of new hybrid ways of working. The greatest synergy was reported in employee experience - a top priority for 34% of employers and 35% of employees.


However, there were some differing priorities. Company culture and creating efficiencies scored more highly with employers, whereas meeting sustainability targets and improved health and safety were of higher importance to employees.


Ironing out discrepancies


While it is clear that employers and employees now agree in many areas of the future workplace – contrasting priorities have emerged in new areas.


Employers prioritised efficiencies much higher than their staff did, whereas employees were more concerned about meeting sustainability targets and improving health and safety. The desire for strong company culture has increased over 100% since the 2021 workplace survey, while this scored highly for both bosses and workers… the stark increase was largely driven by employees keen to boost morale following years of distanced working.


Having come together on the issue of hybrid working, how the cards will fall on other issues remains to be seen. But, with those controlling the purse strings more interested in cost savings – it may well be that compromises need to be made on other priorities. What is clear is that opportunities to deliver cost-savings, carbon savings and improve health and safety present a win-win situation for corporate real estate leaders going forward.


The future is here


Ultimately, the results of Mace Operate’s workplace survey show post-Covid workplace trends are here to stay. With hybrid working now expected by staff and accepted by employers – the workplace needs to offer something that home doesn’t: space for collaboration and the coming together of workmates, a place where the everyday working experience goes beyond an isolated home workstation and supports excellence. A platform for the ambitions, aspirations, shared identity and culture of a business and its people.

This article was originally published via BE News.