As we look to the future in a post-pandemic world, many organizations deal with the rapid and continuous adjustments they must implement to bring their employees back into the office.
According to our recent JLL study, employees are proactively exploring new work preferences regarding returning to an office while their leaders determine a clear plan.
Leaders are grappling with an array of variables, and interestingly, cost management is not the only leading decision factor. Undoubtedly, health and safety are the top priorities, but in parallel, so are their diversity and inclusion efforts, increasing productivity and supercharging their post-pandemic company culture. The office is still paramount to these priorities now and in the future.
To stay proactive in addressing these priorities and addressing their employees’ need for clarity, organizations have to imagine this in three phases: re-enter, acclimate, and optimize.
The Re-enter Phase
- First and foremost, it’s important to gauge the sentiment of the workforce through polls, surveys, one-on-one conversations, focus groups, AI, and more.
- The employee insights will inform the strategy and help shape a clear communication plan to let employees know what to expect and what is expected of them.
- In turn, this accelerates the time needed to adjust to the new work expectations and allows the organization to focus on getting people back safely and healthily.
The Acclimate Phase
- Most organizations will re-enter with a degree of flexibility and must embed real-time feedback mechanisms to acclimate based on re-enter phase learnings.
- During this phase, it’s key to use data and strategic planning practices to make decisions about office space utilization in the near term and longer-term.
- Data, especially real-time data and insights, are paramount to evaluating how the office meets the top priorities (e.g., safety, employee experience, productivity).
The Optimize Phase
- The optimize phase focuses on the office’s strategic purpose, including its value to employees, the real estate portfolio, and office design.
- The roadmap for the office will be an important contributor to things such as wellness, diversity, inclusion, and sustainability.
- To help make a confident real estate decision, multiple executives must weigh in (e.g., CEO, CHRO, CFO, COO, CIO) to ensure customer, employee, technology, and operational needs are all addressed.
What is JLL Doing?
- Being clear on the purpose of our offices, we accelerated our safe return to the office (in the US), and JLL Dallas-Fort Worth successfully returned to the office in May 2020 with employees’ health as the top priority and with clear leadership communications throughout.
- Overall, JLL, we’re moving into the optimization phase and beginning to understand the new requirements of a work-from-office and from-anywhere workforce.
We believe the office has a new, exciting purpose and must be a place where people are excited to return safely and healthily. All organizations are still working to determine the best way forward and must continually adapt for their employees to thrive.
For more tips on navigating what’s next for the workplace, check out JLL’s guide to returning to work in the next normal and JLL’s insights on the future of work.
Saadia Sheikh is the vice president of brokerage at JLL Dallas, and Stephen D. Clarke is JLL Americas’ strategy and innovation lead.