How corporate real estate can reinvent itself in the era of remote work

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The pandemic has altered the workplace forever. In collaboration with M Moser, a global workplace design organization, we share our perspectives to help leaders and organizations measure and invest in the right aspects of the workplace to ensure success.

The forced global experiment of remote work caused by COVID-19 has turned the world of corporate real estate on its head. The office has become the focal point of discussion for all organizations—who needs to come into the office, how much and what type of space is needed and how should success be measured?

Whether you’re an organization that’s at the beginning of rethinking your workplace and its impact on your real estate footprint, or well into the planning and consolidation efforts, there is a path to navigating the uncertainty. Workplace transformation centers around three core areas: space composition, technology enablement and real estate metrics. Assessing these key aspects of the workplace can help guide the various space types required and provide a path to long-term solutions.

Workplace transformation centers around three core areas:

  • Space composition
  • Technology enablement
  • Real estate metrics

Evaluating space composition

When an organization understands why it is evaluating its real estate needs, it is in a better position to identify not only how much space, but, perhaps more importantly, what type of space and where it should be located.

Historically, workplaces were designed with a majority of space allocated for focused, individual work and with a one-size-fits-all approach. Now, the need to be in the office has shifted from a requirement to a conscious choice to support a certain mode of work. Going forward, employees will likely go to the office predominantly to interact with others, as most information and means of sharing moves to the virtual realm.

Identifying technology enablers

With multiple work locations emerging, it is critical to have the appropriate enabling technology to blend the physical and virtual workplace.

Proprietary software for gathering data about users to understand how they work provides companies with the ability to distill the infinite range of people and their needs into personas with characteristics that are easily understood and supported. Behavior-focused design applies an understanding of these roles, personalities and behaviors, and translates these insights into the workplace. This detailed understanding of where, how and why work happens can be used to align user needs to the right size of real estate and the right design to enable performance.

Retooling real estate metrics

Corporate real estate metrics used historically to assess, compare, and determine how space is utilized will likely need to change to reflect the post-COVID ways companies will use their real estate.

The optimal solution is a balanced approach with metrics that represent workforce, workplace and real estate, including:

  • Mobility vs utilization score. Leveraging workforce segmentation and employee categories to determine how often employees plan to be in the office. This can then be compared with how often they do actually come into the office.
  • Experienced sq.ft per person. Considering the entire space as a place to get work done, with fewer people in the office at any given time.
  • Number of work settings per employee. Historically a metric used to design space, it takes on a new meaning for conference rooms, breakroom and collaborative spaces. There may be multiple work settings per person to use throughout the typical day.
  • Remote readiness score. The consistency of the technology and digital tools inside and outside of an office and their ability to cope with disruption.
  • Density vs occupation score. If every second seat needs to stay empty, how many people can fit on a floor while maintaining the specified spacing?

The path forward

Workplaces are no longer solely physical locations where all work-related activities take place. Instead, they serve multiple personas within the organization—providing a diverse choice of spaces to meet their unique work requirements.

A clear understanding of how space composition, technology enablement and real estate metrics work in an organization will guide informed decisions to ensure the enablement of the ideal workplace design and an optimal real estate footprint. By truly focusing on people and how they need to do their jobs, the physical office will evolve, transform and continue to play a critical role in nurturing a company’s culture, fostering a collective sense of purpose and empowering individuals to meet their full potential.

Contact us

Ed Faccio

Partner, PwC US

Erika Ryback

Director, PwC US

Ken Schotl

Managing Director, PwC US

Siddarth Bhatia

Director, PwC US

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