Defining solutions for the post-pandemic workplace

As Director for Profica’s Occupier Services division, Richard de Klerk heads up a team delivering  Occupier Services and Workplace Solutions across Africa. Since joining Profica in 2017, Richard has been involved in projects for a number of key clients, including Mastercard, Amazon, Oracle, BCG and AIG amongst many.  He shares his thoughts on the key emerging trends in the post-pandemic workplace. 

It’s no secret that the pandemic has been a game changer in the corporate real estate market. Even as we see a return to offices, many of our clients are downsizing to more agile work premises as they define new flexible and hybrid work policies.

The pandemic years showed that hybrid working is not only possible, but preferred by many knowledge workers. For some organizations hybrid working takes an “office-first” approach with most time spent in the office, while others take a “virtual-first” approach, with employees primarily working remotely, using the office for collaboration and on-site work as needed.

In South Africa, fuel prices and load shedding may influence driving patterns and office versus home trends. Discovery Insure’s Work From Home Index,  found that people are more likely to travel to their places of work on three days of the week, and typically work from home on two.

The implementation of hybrid or remote working across the African continent has been challenging, largely due to underdeveloped infrastructure, inconsistent power supply and internet connectivity issues. Alternative sources of power, such as solar, generators and inverters, are expensive for companies and individuals to implement. A study in South Africa indicated that many organizations were unprepared for the pandemic and had to adjust their budgets to provide employees with access to laptops and other necessary tools. This has further highlighted a skills gap in the African workforce, causing security and privacy concerns for organizations that require their employees to work remotely.

Hybrid work trends

CBRE US-based research indicates that almost 60% of companies have now defined criteria for determining hybrid working eligibility, which is largely determined by job function (57%) and manager discretion (45%). Only 21% leave the hybrid working choice up to the employee. 

In the CBRE 2022 Occupancy Benchmarking Program, poor cultural fit was cited as the primary reason for not having a hybrid work program by 70% of the respondents who lacked one. This figure has risen sharply from 36% in 2021. 20% of respondents cited lack of C-suite support, while job function had minimal influence (10%). The data indicates that these organisations choose not to implement hybrid work, despite having the potential to do so.

Most organizations take a “guided” approach to hybrid working, offering flexible schedules within a framework so that they know who will be in the office to better predict space needs. This transparency helps ensure employees have productive, collaborative interactions with relevant colleagues when in the office and enables office managers to prepare the right types of space and services as needed.

Changing employee priorities after the pandemic means leaders are faced with a new challenge – making time in the office worth the commute.  Leaders need to reimagine the office and its purpose for their teams, such as fostering collaboration, teamwork, connectivity, culture and compliance, or providing mentorship. Once there is a clear agreement on ‘why’, leaders can strategise on ‘how’.  With a clear vision of the purpose and objectives of time spent in the office, leaders can plan out the best way to achieve their goals and work with a specialist team to put the right workplace solution in place. 

Whatever a company’s approach to hybrid working, space demands will vary directly in proportion to the level of flexibility specified in hybrid policies. It’s important that a clear approach is set upfront so that space can be effectively managed and designed for purpose.

Profica’s Occupier Services division focuses on workplace solutions with an in-house team of talented designers, workplace strategists, cost managers  and project managers. Our main strength is our ability to engage collaboratively and consult with our clients to better understand their needs and through this interpretation, realise their vision in the end product. Our vision is to build on our client-centric approach and continue to deliver for our clients, both in South Africa and across the African continent.

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