Adaptive Spaces

The New Hybrid Office? You’re Already In It.

August 14, 2021

By Lewis C. Horne


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Almost a decade ago at CBRE, we envisioned the “office of the future” with our newly leased space in Downtown Los Angeles. Our strategy, which we refer to as Workplace360, was soon embraced by offices around the U.S. Of course at the time, we didn’t consider the implications of a global pandemic–but as it turns out, the free-address, flexible-work approach that underpins Workplace360 is proving to be an ideal format for accommodating the increase in hybrid work accelerated by COVID and its variants.

In fact, many office-using companies across the U.S. now are embracing changes that we adopted years ago through Workplace360. When you walk into Downtown LA, the first thing you’ll notice is varied and expansive collaboration space. As our clients return to work after the pandemic, more and more are similarly embracing collaborative features such as cafes and high-tech conference rooms in their offices. Among large U.S.-based companies surveyed in our Spring 2021 Occupier Survey, 60 percent said they are enhancing collaboration space in their workplaces. Sixty-three percent said they are piloting workplace strategies, and 47 percent are revisiting their design standards. Only 10 percent said they aren’t planning any changes in this regard.

Free address has also gained favor as a flexible seating format that allows companies to accommodate variations on the number and roster of employees visiting the office each day. Half of large companies in our Occupier Survey said they prefer an approach of “targeted mobility” in which they provide free address seating for departments that it suits and assigned seating for others. Another 37 percent said they prefer “activity-based work,” which includes even more flexibility in seating than targeted mobility. Meanwhile, none said they’d choose purely dedicated seating.

Much of Workplace360’s effectiveness is on display in our Los Angeles offices and elsewhere across the country. It serves as a working example for clients on how to successfully implement similar approaches. We now have several years of experience with the free-address model that many companies now are considering in order to support hybrid work. We’re also well versed in the design and incorporation of collaborative space that facilitates the in-person group work that many employees prefer to do in the office.

In many ways, Workplace360 also draws inspiration from hospitality, experiential retail and the comforts of home, all of which serve to create a unique experience for employees when they come to the office. As corporate executives grapple with how to bring hesitant employees back, our Workplace360 offices provide real-world examples in how to create a compelling office experiences that draw employees in and enhance company culture.

Certainly the pandemic has spurred many companies to focus on new office formats and functions, many of which CBRE has tested and refined in its own workplaces: flexibility, collaboration, community, wellness and fostering an enticing and productive work environment. And as we’ve done for a decade now, we will continue to share our own workplace insights—both our successes and our challenges—in order to help clients navigate the transformational road ahead as we return to the office in a meaningful way.