Many firms are struggling with the culture shift that has occurred within their firm regarding remote work.  

There are numerous very well conducted surveys, including this one by PwC, that conclusively state that employees overwhelmingly prefer some remote work as part of their routine.  Even pre-pandemic, CNBC, Hillarys, and others published surveys indicating that a large portion of staff would accept less pay in exchange for flexible or remote work.  The numbers are growing.  This year, TechRepublic reported a Citrix survey that found 75% of polled employees would take a pay cut if they had the freedom to work remotely.

The imperative now is that there is a growing wave of companies that are developing remote work policies that will provide this flexibility, and your firm will be competing with them for job candidates.  Without it, you risk that your staff will will seek other employment if forced back to a full time office routine.  This is causing businesses to rethink both remote work and real estate strategy.

 Check out these results from over 100 CFO’s of firms over $50MM in the  latest FL Institute of CFO’s survey:

Note that the sentiment is split above and below the 70 percent occupancy level with approximately 39% of firms expecting staff to work mostly in office and 45% planning for 60% in-office attendance or less.

There have been many media, and social media, debates on whether staff truly want to get back into the office or work from home.  The truth is: They want both.

The commercial office investment industry wants to convince you that we need to return to a 2019 office mindset which coincidentally happens to be a very profitable and well controlled business for them.  The long term nature of leases and the inflexibility inherent in that old system provided tremendous opportunity for professional landlords to maximize return on investment because:

  1. Businesses had to have physical space to accommodate staff, and 
  2. A growing company could easily get in a compromised position where they were forced to expand in place and pay exorbitant rates.

These real estate firms have a business model that is counting on a return to full time office work to maximize their returns.  Therefore, much of the propaganda produced by them is focused on polarizing the issue into an all or nothing, “office vs. work from home” debate.  It is not all or nothing.  It is about a new capability and new flexibility for both company and staff to choose location on any given day or time as needed.

The amount of money saved by reducing office space under lease is insignificant compared to the advantageous impact that remote work has on business operations.  The greatest benefits come from:

  • Increased Flexibility:  Need to expand headcount by 30%?  You can do that with no immediate increase in office footprint by temporarily moving from a 3/day week in-office average to a 2/day week average.  This relieves the pressure of having to sync # of desks with # of staff.
  • Expanded Labor Pool:  If staff only need to access the office occasionally, they will be willing to commute further including some staff who may only visit the company office infrequently or not at all.  This enables more diversity by hiring from locations outside the immediate area, and can include staff in disadvantaged areas, different time zones, or with physical disabilities that make commuting difficult.
  • Digital Transformation:  Reducing bricks and mortar facility costs allows deployment of resources into IT investments that further supports remote capabilities.

Business leaders need to leverage this opportunity to expand upon both the skills and lessons learned over the last year.   Will you help expand your company with new future capabilities or retreat to the past?

Work is what we do, not where we go.

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If you’d like to get more insight as to what other firms are planning, take this five question two minute survey:

Note:  The survey is open to firms with 50 or more office staff only!  Please respond only if you fit that criteria.

Office Transformation Survey

Your individual response will be confidential and presentation of all results will be anonymous.  Respondents will get detailed results and we’ll have future posts here discussing general trends.  We appreciate your participation.