A changed world for corporate real estate

As the pandemic lingers, office occupiers of all sizes are grappling with how to plan workplaces that are safe, productive and equitable so their constituents—employees, clients and vendors—are comfortable and motivated to come to the office.

Even before the pandemic, corporate real estate executives were developing and implementing strategies that took advantage of the exponential growth of new technologies, digitization and data availability. Crucially, as it turned out, many companies already had some form of a mobility program that enabled employees to work from home. As a result, most organizations were relatively well-equipped to pivot, virtually overnight, to support working conditions that met local and regional guidelines both in the office and at home.

As COVID-19 continued through 2020 and into 2021, occupancy planning took on a new importance, with organizations devising new layouts and rotational schedules to allow employees to safely return to the office in accordance with local social-distancing guidelines. Most companies are now able to bring employees back, though many have yet to reopen fully because of the delta variant (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Do you have a reentry date scheduled for general employees (beyond essential workers)?

Source: CBRE Global Occupancy Insights Report, 2021.

Preparing for the next normal

With many employees expressing a preference for flexible work going forward, real estate decision-makers are squarely focused on planning for the next normal—likely hybrid workplaces that bring people and teams together. This shift has marked implications for office design, planning and workplace equity.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, though. Who should come to the office? How much time should they spend there? How do you ensure those who work virtually are visible, engaged and offered the same opportunities as their counterparts in the physical office? How do you design an office with the proper balance of individual and collaborative spaces? Each company has to develop its own solution, often on a department-by-department or team-by-team basis.

To support corporate real estate planners and decision-makers contending with the multi-faceted challenges of planning for future office needs, we surveyed peer organizations to build a comprehensive profile of global corporate space occupancy and utilization trends. This report synthesizes the results to provide insight into how organizations are managing their portfolios now and how they’re preparing for the future.

Image of office workersReal estate decision-makers are squarely focused on planning for the next normal—likely hybrid workplaces that bring people and teams together