Chapter 2

Work

The Global Live-Work-Shop Report

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Since the onset of the pandemic, awareness of the benefits of work-life balance and flexibility has grown substantially.

Although financial remuneration remains the overriding criterion for most workers, the search for flexibility is increasingly influencing job choices and workplace decisions and is also closely linked to improved sentiment at work.

Other key issues in the world of work include commuting, with a widespread desire to spend much less time traveling to and from the office. This will have significant implications for occupier and investor decisions regarding location.

Workers’ desire for flexibility is a long-term trend, but the office can still attract them. However, doing so will require substantial investment in features that can enhance the work environment and make the office more attractive to employees.

Flexibility is closely linked to improved sentiment toward work

One consequence of the pandemic is a newfound emphasis on improved work-life balance and a strong wish to retain this flexibility.

More than half of respondents feel that their work-life balance has improved since the pandemic, with a much smaller proportion disagreeing.

Workers are increasingly viewing job choices and workplace decisions through the lens of flexibility, with 40% of respondents considering when and where work can take place, along with a company’s overall commitment to a healthy work-life balance, when evaluating new job opportunities.

While the salary package still dominates, flexibility in its various forms is now a far more significant factor in job selection. This is especially true for older workers, who report higher ratings for all main job selection factors, with salary and commute time showing particularly large differences.

Learning, development and career progression are far more important for Gen Z and millennials, and almost certainly a driver for them to retain some presence in the office.

Flexibility seen as benefiting productivity, wellbeing and connectivity

The prominence given to flexibility now goes well beyond job selection decisions. The survey found that where flexibility has been provided, it is associated with more positive sentiment in areas including productivity, wellbeing and connectivity.

Hybrid or remote workers are far more likely than fully office-based workers to report they have experienced greater personal and team productivity. The same applies for wellbeing, as measured by better work-life balance and levels of job satisfaction.

In terms of connectivity, hybrid workers report by far the highest levels of connectedness to their own teams and to the rest of the company, with the survey also revealing that their relationships with colleagues had improved the most.

% who agree with the following statement

work-fig-11-percentage-who-agree-with

Source: CBRE Research, 2022.

The shift to hybrid working has engendered more trust in employees

Approximately half of respondents report a strengthening in their level of trust with their employer compared with prior to the pandemic.

A higher proportion of hybrid and remote worker respondents reported stronger trust with their employer than those who are fully office-based, a trend that was especially prominent in the Americas—in part because workers with a more flexible schedule feel empowered with greater autonomy over how they work, which in turn drives a feeling of greater trust with their employer.

With the shift toward hybrid and remote forms of working having improved trust, finding ways to reinforce this position by retaining or enhancing the real estate and work flexibility available to employees will boost engagement and competitiveness.

Compared with views pre-pandemic, how far do you agree with the following statement: The trust I have in my current employer has strengthened

work-fig-12-compared-with-views

Source: CBRE Research, 2022.

Remote
Hybrid and remote worker’s trust in their company has improved the most
North America
Strengthened trust in employer most evident
Offering flexibility provides opportunity to build trust — a driver of employee engagement

Actions for Occupiers and Investors

Use offices to drive engagement

Occupiers must recognize the close links between trust gains, flexibility and positive work sentiment in portfolio and workplace planning.

Select real estate with features that users value most

Occupiers should seek to enhance the productivity, well-being and connectivity of employees in and out of the office. This embraces both building choice and the design and configuration of space to support employee flexibility across all work environments.

Adjust investment strategies

The permanent shift toward hybrid working means that occupiers’ evolving strategies matter more to investment decision processes. Investors are advised to redirect investment selection criteria toward assets possessing the aforementioned favorable user characteristics.

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Easing commute time is key to improving office utilization

Tolerance of long commutes is dropping sharply, with respondents naming it as their second most important job selection factor amid a widespread wish to spend much less time traveling to and from work.

Three-quarters of respondents want a one-way commute time of no more than 30 minutes, but only 57% currently have one. Conversely, the tolerance to commute for more than 30 minutes in the future is much lower than current levels.

The need to reflect lower commuting appetite will be a major determinant of office location decisions. As many respondents, particularly Gen Z and millennials, want to live in centralized areas, CBDs look set to once again be the most sought-after office locations.

Office-based
Commute time is the second most important job assessment factor, after pay and benefits. Particularly for office-based workers, over 40% of whom see commute time as a top three issue in job selection.

Clear link between shorter commutes and satisfaction with offices

The preference to shorten commutes to a maximum of 30 minutes is greatest among suburban to city commuters. One consequence likely will be a growing preference for city center living, precisely to cut down commuting time, and consistent with the preferences of those intending to move their home. Companies should also review how far their location patterns appeal to current suburban dwellers, with their choice of office locations set to play a vital role in responding to this shift in behavior.

The survey also found that commute time is so important that it affects perceptions of the working environment. Workers with short commutes are more likely to be satisfied with the quality of their office, including internal amenities, than those with longer commutes.

It therefore follows that when making decisions about location and design, landlords and occupiers should pay at least as much attention to travel patterns and the burden of commuting as they do to amenities and design features. Ultimately this could be critical to optimizing employee satisfaction.

Strong desire to shorten commutes among those traveling from suburbs to city centre

work-fig-14-strong-desire

Source: CBRE Research, 2022.

Lower tolerance
for commuting time, across all current travel patterns, but especially for suburban to city centre trips

Asia Pacific Live-Work-Shop Report 2022

Cross-generational attitudes that will transform global built environments.

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Location decisions and micro-market characteristics are vital

Other external factors also affect workers’ inclination to visit the office, but not uniformly. Accessibility to public transport, quality of overall location in terms of proximity to retail and hospitality, and availability of car parking all play a role, although commute time remains by far and away the most important consideration.

Despite being among the most important influencers of home-office decisions, these factors are mostly outside the control of heads of corporate real estate, underlining the importance of decision-making regarding location and micro-market characteristics.

While there were some significant variations in importance, with the Americas ranking highest for car parking and Asia-Pacific for public transport accessibility, this reflects dominant transport modes. With millennials and Gen Z more concerned about quality of location than older workers, occupiers will need to carefully consider locations that can encourage workers to visit.

External factors crucial in raising desirability of office visit

work-fig-15-external-factors

Source: CBRE Research, 2022.

Regional variations

North America: Less focus on public transporation access, more on car parking

APAC: Far greater focus on public transport

Quality of location
Far more important for early millennials. Far less for baby boomers

Actions for Occupiers and Investors

Prioritize accessibility

Occupiers should give greater priority to buildings with proximity to public transit and/or parking. For buildings lacking these attributes, landlords should explore enhancing building connectivity services to ease the burden on tenants and employees.

Understand that commute time is key

Occupiers should weigh the impact of employee commute patterns as an integral part of site selection and aim to understand challenges that those with longer commutes will have to overcome. One consequence of this trend may be a growing need for suburban offices to cater to outer suburban workers.

Use location to inform site and asset selection

Occupiers could seek suburban flexible office locations to suit the needs of employees who want to work closer to home some of the time. On the investment front, buyers can target office and residential investment opportunities in highly accessible and desirable micro-markets. Investors across a range of asset types could also consider adding flexible offices or drop-in space as part of wider amenity offerings.

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Employees’ desire for flexibility is lasting but the office can still attract them

There is clearly a strong desire to continue the shift toward hybrid working, with nearly 40% of respondents currently being office-based all the time but only 20% wanting this to remain the case in the future.

Workers who already have a hybrid pattern want to move further in that direction. At the other extreme, the proportion wanting to be fully home-based in the future remains negligible, meaning that almost all workers want to spend at least some of their working week in the office.

With certain groups—primarily men, baby boomers and workers in Asia-Pacific—displaying a greater desire to be fully office-based, working arrangements will need to be flexible.

Employees want more of a hybrid schedule than they have today—but the office remains an important place to do work

Working environment now tops the agenda

The quality of the working environment is more important to people than ever before. Around two-thirds of respondents place a higher value on the quality of the working environment than prior to the pandemic. This figure is even higher for hybrid workers, regardless of how frequently they go to an office.

While fully office-based workers may choose this work option for reasons unrelated to the quality of the office, such as their role or living arrangements, the continuing shift toward hybrid working can strengthen the premium placed on the quality of the working environment.

Challenges for occupiers include understanding their workers’ preferences and ascertaining which aspects of office quality are most important. Under half of respondents say that their own personal preferences are fully aligned with company guidelines, and most of the rest say they are required to be in the office more than they would like. Only 57% feel that their companies have communicated and set expectations clearly. Occupiers will need to understand these preferences across their workforce and ideally allow greater flexibility for teams and individuals to produce their own best solutions.

Higher value placed on quality of work environment in post COVID era, especially by hybrid workers
Late millennials
Young generations generally value the quality of work environment more, with late millenials paying the most attention
Hybrid workers
Regardless of frequency of office attendance, they focus more on quality of environment than do full-time office workers

I attach more importance to the quality of my working environment

work-fig-17-I-attach-more

Source: CBRE Research, 2022.

Office amenities must improve the employee experience

On the specifics of working environment, there are several categories to choose from. Among internal elements, environmental features such as natural light and better air quality rank highly, along with dedicated space for focused work, and design and aesthetics.

Advanced office technologies such as personalized lighting are also important, along with systems that help in locating colleagues and teammates. Although wellness features are highly valued, as are COVID-19 safety measures, conveniences such as on-site hotel accommodation or day-care facilities are accorded lower priority.

The survey uncovered some variation across different workstyles, with fully office-based workers valuing free food and beverages, and remote workers believing that having their own private offices could entice them into the office occasionally. This level of fine-tuning will require a deep understanding of the proportions, preferences and roles of the entire workforce.

What, specifically, makes a quality office environment?

work-fig-18-what-specifically-makes-

Source: CBRE Research, 2022.

Actions for Occupiers and Investors

Invest in improving the office

Occupiers must be willing to spend CapEx on the designs, technologies, services and amenities that are perceived to improve the quality of the work environment and that make the office desirable for employees. Particular attention should be given to the needs of hybrid and younger workers.

Investors should also focus on the highest quality properties and enhance their assets to remain competitive. Landlords should also partner with major tenants to explore new ways of creating high-quality work environments, to support income and occupancy levels. This might be, for instance, through design enhancements and provision of favoured amenities.

Identify the most popular workstyles

Occupiers should understand and monitor the different value drivers for various workstyles their office is accommodating and allocate investment accordingly.

Explore cost-sharing opportunities

Landlords and occupiers should explore the potential for cost sharing in terms of the design, fit-out and management of office buildings to boost the appeal of offices to workers.

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The Global Live-Work-Shop Report Data Dashboard

How do your attitudes around how you live, work and shop compare to those in your region, market and age group?