Over the last three and a half years, the world of work has transformed. Employees want more flexibility, and companies have different strategies for providing this. Hybrid work models have emerged, where workers split their time between the office and working from home. Of course, this news will be no surprise to anyone who has followed workplace practices in recent times, but the extent and scale of the changes to come are still up for debate.
In January 2023, McKinsey Global Institute released a report that discussed how hybrid work set-ups, where some work happens on-site and some remotely, are likely to persist, and that organizations will need to refine their operating models in response to this shift. In addition, a survey by CIPD, the UK’s professional body for human resources, says 83 percent of organizations it asked have hybrid working in place, with about half of those having a formal policy. And over half of respondents required hybrid-working employees to be in the workplace for a minimum number of days in the week or month. In the United States, in September 2023, WeWork asked over 100 companies about their current return-to-office strategies, and confirmed that hybrid schedules have become the most popular policy for this.
Getting the return to office right
A primary driver behind these return-to-office policies is companies wanting their workforce to collaborate more in person. A joint survey for WeWork and Cushman & Wakefield, published in 2022, found that in assessing new hybrid models, organizations want to retain the inherent business value that a traditional office environment provides: the chance to be creative, and to collaborate, mentor and learn. We found flexible offices to be an important component of the workplace ecosystem. Business leaders are now asking how the flexible office space can fit into a real-estate portfolio strategy, with our respondents saying they wanted to be in flexible office space 50 percent of the time.
Then, of course, there are also the employees themselves to consider, and their attraction, recruitment and retention. A January 2023 survey by management consultancy Gartner, quoted in the Middle East’s The National newspaper, says: “Hybrid is no longer just an employee perk but an employee expectation, challenging employers to create a human-centric approach to hybrid.” In addition, our own September survey finds that a third of companies say the most difficult part of return-to-office planning is managing employee expectations.
Three solutions that make hybrid working easy
In the short video accompanying this article, three WeWork executives discuss how WeWork makes hybrid working easy for businesses across the globe. According to Doug Smith, WeWork Chief Product Officer: “At WeWork, what we’ve done is develop new solutions to help our members manage these different scenarios. We help companies utilise flexible workspace, enabling workers to determine how and where they want to work.” Jennifer Perrotta, WeWork Chief Technology Officer, continues: “The way we’re adapting to the needs of the hybrid workforce is something I think will continue to resonate with all individuals and companies of all shapes and sizes.”
In the film, Smith describes three WeWork solutions that fit the various needs of members:
- Space-as-a-Service: off-the-shelf, move-in-ready space so members save the time and money typically required to find and create traditional office space.
- WeWork Access: a pay-as-you-go or membership service giving access to hundreds of office locations around the world by the hour, day or month.
- WeWork Workplace: a software solution that helps companies manage their employees across all of their locations, book specific desks in advance, and gather useful insights into how they are utilising their office footprint.
A community to support connection and collaboration
Through member feedback, WeWork has been able to offer a variety of experiences without losing the ability for members to have private space or the opportunity to collaborate. As Perrotta says: “We’ve designed our technology for the hybrid workforce of today, and it will continue to adapt for tomorrow.” The design is intended to help facilitate connection and collaboration through various space types. Ebbie Wisecarver, WeWork Global Head of Design adds: “We want WeWork to feel familiar and consistent, but also to feel special and unique to a market, a neighbourhood and a building.”
The beating heart of WeWork’s offering is its Community team – who provide hospitality services, and create a positive working environment that members love to work from. Wisecarver says: “Time and time again, we hear from our members that they come for the atmosphere and the experience, which is so much facilitated by our Community teams.”
As Doug Smith adds: “It allows our members to focus on what’s important to them, which is building their business, and then leave the real estate to us.”