Hybrid working will define the future of work, but firms are unprepared

While the move to flexible and hybrid working is widely accepted by businesses, their preparedness to implement such a strategy is not yet fully realised. That is the key finding of a new report from Siemens subsidiaries Comfy and Enlighted. Commissioned by Siemens from analyst firm Verdantix, the study polled 75 corporate real estate (CRE) executives from global companies with annual revenues of over $1 billion on the strategic considerations of redefining workforce models due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our study results indicate that enterprise companies are considering how the seismic shift in work impacts top-line objectives such as productivity and sustainability,” said Matthias Rebellius, managing board member of Siemens AG and CEO of Smart Infrastructure. “At the core of any business is the health and wellbeing of its workforce. We understand the criticality of a smooth transition to the new ways of hybrid working because we have made a global corporate commitment to this ourselves. Our real-world experience puts us in a unique position to advise and assist enterprise organizations through this universal transformation.”

We see the movement to hybrid working as a fundamental change in how people connect to their co-workers and their workspaces,” stated Stefan Schwab, CEO of Comfy and Enlighted. “Employees need applications that help them engage in activity-based work in new kinds of spaces, collaborating with others where and when it makes sense. Corporate real estate executives need ways to understand, track and adapt to shifting working models, leveraging technologies and data insights for smart building optimization and sustainability. Our solutions address these related, yet diverse needs.”

Among the study’s key findings are:

  • While the majority of respondents (83 percent) have shifted permanently to a hybrid work model, most (88 percent) are not prepared with change management processes to implement the shift, and 25 percent of respondents are still firming up their return-to-work
  • Maximizing business productivity is the top concern for corporate real estate executives, with flexible working seen by 99 percent of respondents as a critical enabler. Sustainability was noted as the second highest priority by 91 percent of CRE
  • The emphasis on hybrid workspaces has transformed the role of the corporate real estate executive, with over half experiencing major role changes, of which 93 percent cited having more strategic


Uncertainty remains

The complexity of transitioning from a traditional office-based model to hybrid has been further compounded by the emergence of COVID variants and inconsistent timing of global vaccine rollouts. Many executives are still determining the processes and next steps to return their employees safely back to a hybrid office environment. Issues such as a changing capacity limits, new policies for onsite working and a lack of understanding on how activity-based workspaces should be managed are driving the uncertainty around how to implement a hybrid work model.Siemens and Verdantix. “The New Workplace Reality.” — October 2021

“We are still unsure on the plan for working patterns. Currently, we are conducting an employee survey to gather an understanding of the preferences of our employees.” (Real Estate Manager, Insurance)


New priorities

As companies strive to balance worker flexibility with company collaboration and culture, considerations such as employee productivity, sustainability and building decarbonization, and existing real estate and technology investments ranked high on the list of priorities. Maximizing business productivity is a leading priority amongst corporate real estate executives, with 59 percent ranking it as very high priority and 41 percent ranking it as high priority. The second most important business initiative for real estate executives in 2022 is energy efficiency and sustainability, with 91 percent of CRE executives considering it a very high or high priority.