More than 40% of companies have made changes to their office space, or are planning to, because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
That’s according to a recent survey by Vocon, an architectural, strategic and design services company with offices in New York and Cleveland. Vocon has been occasionally surveying its clients across the U.S. during the pandemic about their plans to return to the office.
Its latest survey — published in December — had 75 business leaders respond, representing more than 633,000 employees.
Another major takeaway from that survey: The majority of employers — 86% — plan to use a hybrid model upon their return to the office. For many of those companies — 39% — employees will come into the office more days than not.
Megan Spinos, Principal and Strategy Director at Vocon, based in the Cleveland office, spoke with the New York Business Journal about how she’s seeing companies look at their offices differently, what changes are being made and where employers are still taking a wait-and-see approach.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
What are the most popular changes you’re seeing companies make to their offices right now?
Everyone’s a little bit different.
They have an existing asset. They know that their people are working in a different way, they’re not conflicted about hybrid, they’re not conflicted about productivity, they’re not conflicted about the new workflow changes that have happened because of Covid. They just don’t know what to do with this asset, because there’s also this, “If I react to what’s happening today, am I making the right decision for the long term?” I feel like one of the number one questions we get asked is, “But what if people want to come back more and we’ve cut the space and now we’re stuck?”
Those conversations are starting with a thoughtful analysis of what they have, what kind of work they do. For example, I was on the call with a client who does insurance, and they’re all heads down, which is completely different from like a creative agency. Everyone’s needs are a little bit different. So we’re trying to understand the asset that you have, the work that’s going to take place in the office, and how that pairs with the rest of the work experience that employees have and be thoughtful about how we look at the needs going forward.
When you look at your New York clients in particular, do you see any particular trends?
New York is a little bit of a different animal because if you look at the whole environment of someone’s day, you don’t always have living spaces that can accommodate a home office, which is tough. So there’s been a bit more demand for something to go back to, and someplace to go.
People do want that flexibility and the ability to work in a hybrid manner, but we’re not coming back to the same spaces. The demand for us is building in destinations that, they offer great amenities and a great work experience that get me out of my house and get me into a great frame of mind to connect with other people.
We’re planning a lot more flexibility. We’re planning a lot more free address [where employees aren’t assigned to a specific desk]. We still have places to go, we still have places to do heads-down work, we still have places to connect and collaborate, but we have a lot more flexibility when it’s not all owned and assigned to [individual employees].
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