CRE Opinion

Why Your Next Normal Shouldn’t Be Normal at All

The pandemic has exposed our agility and ability to be productive from anywhere, says PDR's Marc Bellamy.

In the past weeks and months, since we have been forced into the “Great Work from Home Experiment,” our lives have changed.

For some, this has been very dramatic with isolation and loneliness being constant companions. For others, it has been a blessing. More time to connect with family, to pick up (or put down) habits that we can carry forward to make us healthier, stronger, and more empathetic. As we’re all considering how to move forward into the “next normal” of our work-life blend, how can we continue the beneficial aspects of this time while eliminating the burdensome?

Many of our clients are reimagining their workplace to support new ways of working—but not just the real estate. Embracing this level of change requires a deep look at the “Total Work Experience.”

Total Work Experience

At PDR, when we talk about the Total Work Experience, we’re referencing the work we do with clients where human resources, IT, and real estate come together to transform a company’s workplace culture.  It is more than just a real estate transaction—it’s the analysis of humans in the context of space. And it’s not just the formal office space anymore.

The pandemic has exposed our agility and ability to be productive from anywhere. The technology available to everyone makes working from home, or a hotel room, or a restaurant, (or like this morning, in my car while my kids are at cross country practice) not just manageable but convenient and sometimes preferable.

“The freedom to blend your work and life based on the terms that enhance both, your work and life, will be more valuable than any coffee bar, gym, or lux private office can provide.”

Marc Bellamy, PDR

When you combine HR, IT, and real estate to address the issues facing people, processes, and place, the game changes and you’re able to support your teams in the full spectrum of their lives, not just their work.

Of all the office amenities you could offer in this everchanging, unstable environment, the freedom to blend your work and life based on the terms that enhance both, your work and life, will be more valuable than any coffee bar, gym, or lux private office can provide.

Why Have an Office Anyway?

Many Fortune 1000 companies are asking this very serious question.

With millions of square feet of office space sitting vacant, it’s certainly relevant. Real estate is often the second or third highest business expense and, with rising unemployment and an economy in freefall, the real estate community is already seeing downward pressure on total square footage requirements for new leases and a new crop of sublease availability.

So why have an office at all? Data from the Leesman Index global work from home survey, shows only 58 percent of respondents feel connected to colleagues, the organization, and social interaction while working from home. The workplace can no longer be just a warehouse for workers.

The reimagined workplace should be a tool that provides a meaningful connection for your people and serves as one of the many tools in your company’s new ecosystem of places to work.

A shift to the Total Work Experience will redefine the workplace as a hub for your people to connect and build a common community that ties them to your company values and to each other.

PDR’s “Work + Life: Reimagined” provides examples of how the workplace will become a hub for connecting with your teammates and clients and accessing specialized technology that is too powerful or expensive to use from home.

Here at the end of June, our region is seeing a new peak in COVID-19 cases. Coming back together in social settings has no doubt played a role in this increase as our human need for connection is becoming increasingly unsatisfied. This reiterates the fact that our lives have changed. There may never be a time when we all come back to the office, full time, all the time…and that might be ok.

However, it does mean that the time we are able to spend with each other building community, sharing resources, and participating in a common culture are more important than ever. Now is the time to reimagine your people, processes, and place. Engage the full spectrum of your company’s leadership and pivot into a Total Work Experience.

Marc Bellamy is a partner and principal with PDR, who leads the Dallas office.

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