Insights

Rethinking the future workplace

The pandemic has altered the workplace forever. We’ve collaborated with PwC on research to help leaders and organisations measure and invest in the right aspects of workplace to ensure success.

2020-12-19

By Nabil Sabet
Group Director – New York, San Francisco, Vancouver, Toronto

and Grant Christofely
Senior Associate, Workplace Strategy – New York

and Elfreda Chan
Senior Associate, Workplace Strategy – San Francisco

The following is an excerpt from our recently published whitepaper.

Explore the full PDF here


The forced global experiment of remote work caused by COVID-19 has turned the world of corporate real estate on its head.

The skills and capacities gained through remote working have forever changed the workforce. Catalysed by the pandemic, this global upskilling has shifted our perspective of the physical workplace and its place in the ecosystem of resources needed to accomplish our best work.

Leaders are asking questions to understand what, if any, actions they should consider and possibly take now. In this pivotal time of rethinking the future workplace, it’s not just about taking away, but recomposing what’s left. It is imperative that organisations understand how to measure and invest in the right aspects of the workplace to ensure success.

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Whether you’re at the beginning of rethinking your workplace and its impact on your real estate footprint, or well into the planning and consolidation efforts, there is a path to navigating the uncertainty.

Workplace transformation centres around three core areas:

  • Space composition
  • Technology enablement
  • Real estate metrics
Rethinking the future workplace section

Evaluating workspace composition

When an organisation understands why it is evaluating its real estate needs, it is in a better position to identify how much space, what type of space and where it should be located. It’s enticing to take advantage of efficiency gains by driving more work remotely. However, without clarity on how these newly acquired skills will impact long terms goals, the result may only be short-term.

A clear top-down vision from leadership, paired with a bottom-up understanding of the unique personas is essential. This will help define the size and composition of the workplace. It’s important to establish a vision and link it to employee workstyles, motivations, and subsequent needs. This drives the appropriate scale and types of spaces to promote desired behaviours. 

Behaviour-based design aims to understand the behaviours needed for success. This includes the physical, social and digital touchpoints that they impact and influence. This translates into design strategies that enable the desired outcomes for performance, company culture, and workplace wellbeing. 

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Identifying technology enablers

With multiple work locations emerging, it is critical to have the appropriate enabling technology to blend the physical and virtual workplace. Designed incorrectly or overlooked, the wrong digital tools can result in significant risks to delivering an effective workplace and working model.

Cloud-based, real-time collaboration tools will bridge the gap in communications and interactions that are proving difficult to replicate virtually. Moving on-site servers to the cloud for a distributed workforce ensures a seamless experience wherever people choose to work from.

Thoughtful switches to connected systems dramatically upgrades an organisation’s ability to manage and tailor its portfolio. Seat reservation systems provide teams with a bookable space and peer visibility. Resetting perceptions on how space should be used and supporting that change with technology can reduce under- or-over-utilisation.

Beyond efficiencies, building a sense of community and cultivating a positive and inclusive culture is challenging in the current environment. Organisations and leaders have a unique opportunity to push the limits of technology in pursuing this effort. Custom-built workplace applications can create a seamless experience and vital social link between office and remote work environments allowing teams and leaders to measure progress, understand achievement, and prompt forward movement.

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Retooling real estate metrics

Corporate real estate metrics used historically to assess, compare, and determine how space is utilised will likely need to change to reflect the post-COVID ways companies will use their real estate. This new model requires metrics and key performance indicators that help quantify the effectiveness, flexibility and resiliency of workspaces. These metrics serve to evaluate the current requirements and design. Over time they will influence the direction of the future workplace.

The optimal solution is a balanced approach with metrics that represent workforce, workplace, and real estate including:

  • Mobility vs utilisation score

    Leveraging workforce segmentation and employee categories to determine how often employees plan to be in the office. This can then be compared with how often they come into the office.

  • Experienced sq.ft per person

    Considering the entire space as a place to get work done, with fewer people in the office at any given time.

  • Number of work settings per employee

    Historically a metric used to design space, it takes on a new meaning for conference rooms, break room and collaborative spaces. There may be multiple work settings per person to use throughout the typical day.

  • Remote readiness score

    The consistency of the technology and digital tools inside and outside of an office and their ability to cope with disruption.

  • Density vs occupation score

    If every second seat needs to stay empty, how many people can fit on a floor while maintaining the specified spacing?
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Workplaces are no longer solely physical locations where all work-related activities take place. Instead, they serve multiple personas within the organisation providing a diverse choice of spaces to meet their unique work requirements.

A clear understanding of how space composition, technology enablement and real estate metrics work in an organisation will guide informed decisions to ensure the enablement of the ideal workplace design and an optimal real estate footprint. By focusing on people and how they need to do their jobs, the physical office will evolve, transform and continue to play a critical role in nurturing company culture. It will foster a collective sense of purpose and empowering individuals to meet their full potential.

Explore the future workplace


If you want to learn more about what the future of work might look like for your organisation please contact: 

Group Director, Nabil Sabet

Senior Associate - Workplace Strategy, Grant Christofely

Senior Associate - Workplace Strategy, Elfreda Chan 

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