November 6, 2023
Corporate culture has fundamentally changed since the pandemic and with it, so has the way employees interact with the office. This has put leaders under pressure to create experiences for employees that complement, and in some ways even compete with, the comforts of home. Organisations now understand the immense potential for sustainable, inclusive office design, and people-centric real estate strategies to drive positive change and fuel growth.
Whilst inclusive office design was primarily about accessibility and ensuring compliance with codes and regulation, it has been building significant traction and now incorporates multiple facets of diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). The industry is seeing a lot more DEI focused inclusive design today than 5-7 years ago, with mental health and neurodiversity now a greater consideration for employers when redesigning workspace.
To complement this shift, innovative technology is also playing a powerful role in making space more inclusive and sustainable. For instance, certain digital applications can help those who are visually impaired find a meeting room as well as helping businesses improve their sustainable location strategy, such as identifying which neighbourhood and buildings meet high sustainability ratings.
Creating spaces worth the commute with thoughtful, flexible office design, is key to enabling both the formal and informal get-togethers that deepen bonds with colleagues and create a sense of belonging
It’s clear that more and more businesses are looking to raise the bar when it comes to designing truly inclusive workspaces not just from a perspective of making the office more attractive, but also from a position of reducing carbon footprint too. ESG conversations include conversations about social impact, and many corporates are beginning to walk the talk. They recognise that one of the key pillars of any good ESG strategy is to have spaces that cater to DEI.
Additionally, whilst many are looking to ‘rightsize’ space, they’re also competing for the best talent to give them that all-important competitive edge. Listening to employees’ needs has therefore become more vital than ever, with 43 percent of organisations now planning to accelerate investment in workplace design to improve engagement and well-being as a means of attracting top talent. As a new balance emerges between employer and employee, office design is witnessing one of the biggest rethinks in decades.
Developing purpose-built office space comes down to understanding that companies will have a diversity of profiles across its workforce. Not only is this determined by the nature of the work itself but also by the different skills and personality traits that make up a business. That’s why adopting a human-centric approach is critical to identifying how a diversity of employee personas and behaviours shape how employees experience the workplace. This allows companies to create an office space which supports different employee journeys and provides various workplace environments to enable interactions within employees’ daily and weekly schedules. For instance, development of large terrace space is a great way to foster productivity, social interaction and collaboration. Leaders across the sector should therefore design spaces around the needs of the team it supports, with spaces for individual and collective work.
This sentiment is reflected in the nature of the wider real estate sector, which is shifting from being utility-led to purpose-driven. Creating spaces worth the commute with thoughtful, flexible office design, is key to enabling both the formal and informal get-togethers that deepen bonds with colleagues and create a sense of belonging. That means reshaping the design, footprint and style of spaces, moving away from ‘one employee, one desk’, to delivering a new employee value proposition focused on experience and collaboration, which allows new ideas to flourish.
Guzman de Yarza Blache is Head of Global Workplace Strategy at JLL