12-12 May 2022
MELBOURNE

Shaping the future of work – Health, wellness and net impact

Sep 29, 2021 Other

As part two in a series, JLL's Bryan Froud takes us through the four foundational truths the company believe will help professionals the changing landscape of how - and where - we work given the events of the pandemic.

The changes in how, where and when we work were incubating long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Working from home was not a new concept, and flexible and mobile working were features of most industries. Digital workplace enablement and the maturation of cloud-based work platforms had already demonstrated how technology could facilitate work from everywhere.

However, in forcing many organizations to change in an accelerated global manner, the pandemic has been the ultimate change agent for all these work trends, demonstrating amply that they can work at scale. Harvard Business Review contends that “virtually all projections anticipate the post-pandemic workforce will be relatively more remote”. In particular, technology has proven its enormous capability and value in enabling many organizations to continue their business in a way that would have been impossible say 20 years ago before the advent of broadband, the cloud and powerful video conferencing capabilities.

Truth 3 – Health, wellness and safety are – and will continue to be – of high importance to employees

As well as their values, people’s priorities are shifting. More than a year into the pandemic, worker expectations continue to emphasize the importance of health and wellness. According to our study, 58% of employees consider health and well-being programs to be the key element that will make their employer unique in the long run. The crisis, maybe counter intuitively, has offered an unexpected opportunity to boost many quality-of-life aspects, with employees using saved commuting time to focus on leisure, well-being and the family

women sitting on chairs in a circle

Employees will expect – if not demand – that companies will provide for both their physical health and safety and mental well-being when they are in the office. Of those we surveyed, work-life balance (59%) has overtaken securing a comfortable salary (55%) among workers’ priorities post-pandemic. Currently, nearly half of U.S. workers are experiencing pandemic induced mental health issues, likely exacerbated or caused by virtual burnout and social isolation. 73% of workers want to work from places that offer a destination for human connection, coupled with a safe, healthy lifestyle. These findings, and others, suggest wellness initiatives should be holistic.

The upheavals to normalcy caused by the pandemic are only likely to continue throughout society as we move forward. Above all, organizations will need to have flexibility and be resilient to facilitate their ongoing transformation in a constantly changing world.

Business and real estate will need to ready themselves, not just to respond and adapt to a constant state of flux but also to take the lead in changing things for the better, from decarbonizing the planet to caring more for their employees. A post-pandemic world will remain a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). COVID-19 continues to cause changes every day that are unpredictable and fast-moving and affecting all aspects of our life in very complex ways. There is no corporate roadmap to follow to manage the momentous challenges brought about by the pandemic. Organizations will need to head the recovery in a responsible and agile way, empowering the workforce wherever they work.

Truth 4 – The net impact on space usage and footprints will be relatively minor

As added degrees of certainty begin to make planning for the future of work more achievable, there is a growing urgency to help corporate occupiers navigate what might be a long, complex and demanding transformation journey. What we are experiencing right now has been long in the making.

The crisis has and is accelerating the transformation of work at an incredible pace, and we can already envisage a future where organizations are characterized by a dispersed, digitally-enabled, liquid workforce that requires workplaces with flexible footprints to accommodate work from anywhere.

man sitting at desk in front of laptop

Many companies, advanced in their thinking, are already deploying ‘hybrid’ workplace solutions that will enhance employee flexibility and boost human performance while optimizing their real estate portfolios. While some companies have adopted a ‘wait and see’ stance, still trying to understand what the future of work will mean for their organization and what level of transformation they will need. We expect guidelines in most markets will allow for between 75 to 100 percent capacity by the end 2021. Some companies will ask their employees to return to spaces that look, feel and operate quite similarly to pre-pandemic times. Other companies may consider designs and fit-outs that create more open and collaborative spaces. Still others may need smaller footprints due to an increase in remote work and a decrease in assigned desks. There may be a wide range of individual outcomes across markets, industries and assets, but we believe any space reductions will be broadly offset by growth from job creation, de-densification and the addition of collaboration space, making the aggregate impact minimal.

people in an office space

However, the hybrid solution is just one workplace solution and just one element within the transformation journey. While there may be common approaches, every organization will have to develop its own ‘future of work’ model determined by multiple factors. What we know is that hybrid is scalable and changeable over time and can fit into most organizational models, providing enough flexibility to adapt to the demands of the workforce while reinforcing organizational resilience during times of fluctuating market demands and crises.

A key factor in every corporate transformation will be keeping employee demands ‘front of mind’ to achieve change. Aside from the brand, culture and value of the organization, the talent strategy and level of dispersion of the workforce will greatly influence the final hybrid model. It will define the robustness of the technology platform needed and the distribution of workplaces required to meet the preferences of the workforce, wherever it works.

To find out more information on JLL’s research into workplace trends, click here.
Bryan joined us at this year’s Be Summit on the panel ‘Where to from here? The future of work and what it means for the built environment’. If you didn’t get a chance to him and us online, not to worry, we recapped the top 5 key takeaways from the session! Read the session blog here.
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