Close to a year into the pandemic, we have reached an inflection point. COVID-19 has accelerated the world in ways that will undoubtedly alter the course of business for decades to come, transforming conventional notions of where and how we work. While approved vaccines hold promise of a return to normalcy when the pandemic recedes, exactly what will our world of work look like and how can companies set themselves up for success?
New reports from JLL, “Shaping the Future of Work for a Better World” and “Shaping Human Experience,” explore the next chapter of the future of work. They demonstrate that companies with the agility to adapt to new and changing conditions across work, the workforce and the workplace will successfully build their competitive advantage in a post-pandemic world.
A new purpose for the office is emerging
Despite the willingness to continue to work from home on a regular basis post-pandemic, employees still retain a strong affinity for the office. Research suggests the office provides a sense of community and belonging, where remote work has led to gaps in collaboration, leadership and managerial competencies. JLL’s human experience report – which surveyed more than 2,000 global office workers – found that 70% of office workers believe the office environment is more conducive to connecting with teammates to solve complex issues, manage direct reports and connect with leadership.
“The pandemic has accelerated the trend of the office being a space to foster productivity and socialization,” said Neil Murray, JLL’s Global CEO, Corporate Solutions. “Moving forward, however, variety, flexibility and choice will be core tenets of all successful office environments post-crisis.”
Looking toward the future of work following the pandemic, traditional offices will act as the central hub for productivity and collaboration and provide a new purpose of driving sustained human performance, experience and well-being. JLL’s research finds that one in two employees, for instance, consider socialization spaces crucial to their experience in the office in the future. Further, 74% of employees agree that having the ability to go to the office remains fundamental.
Shifting from a workplace-focused to a worker-centric mindset
Companies have already adjusted to greater workplace flexibility as a result of the pandemic, but they will also have to lean into and proactively address changing workforce preferences in order to retain and attract top talent.
With work now truly boundaryless – where 66% of employees expect to be able to work from different locations post-crisis – employees are requesting a safe, productive and seamless experience that satisfies their personal and professional needs. This will require employers to balance the dynamic between the physical and virtual workplace to meet employees’ diverse, changing needs and workstyles.
JLL’s research highlights four worker profiles that suggest employee expectations of the future of work are radically different. The Traditional Office Worker wants to work exclusively in the office; the Free Spirit wants to escape from the traditional office environment; the Experience Lover enjoys human experiences; and the Wellness Addict prioritizes work-life balance. These worker types will need to be front and center as employers look to build a truly worker-centric workplace that is inclusive of employees’ diverse preferences.
“Many employers are now starting to accept that they may never operate in the way they did pre-crisis again. Employers need to shape their workspaces according to the new ways of working imposed by the pandemic, and reinvent themselves to evolve alongside the workforce, rather than against it,” said Mary Bilbrey, JLL’s Global Chief Human Resources Officer.
The workplace will be different, but just as important
As hybrid work quickly becomes the status quo – with 50% of the workforce wanting to work both in the office and remotely – JLL also expects a significant shift in flexible space operating models. From landlords creating their own flexible space (or partnering with flexible space operators) to corporate occupiers considering a greater dispersion of their footprint to adapt to new working and living patterns, a dispersed, digitally enabled, liquid workforce will characterize the future of work.
“While the COVID-19 crisis has incited a massive paradigm shift in the way we work and live, it is also providing a once in a lifetime opportunity to shape a better future of work,” said Dr. Marie Puybaraud, JLL’s Global Head of Research, Corporate Solutions. “Future successful companies will be those that are bold and proactive in shaping their workplaces according to the changing needs and preferences of a liquid workforce, where solutions are tailored to meet individual employee needs.”