Was it because the work from home mandates were so swift and brutal? Was it because we are naturally expecting events that we can see and name? Or was it because we were naïve?
In any case, we all thought there would be a “return to office”. Hey, we at Locatee even named a dashboard view that way. We didn’t know what it would look like. Many of us tried our hand at the prediction game. We thought we could at least put a date on it (wishful thinking perhaps?)
It turns out, there was no date on a return to the office. From what we can see in Locatee’s data, in many cases, across various countries, people have started to use the office “again” for a while – and that before some countries have effectively declared the pandemic over. And if Big Tech is to continue to take a leading role for others to follow, things may very well start to accelerate now with Google taking clear steps towards “opening”.
It’s just that the office has been used very differently than before. And we have to reframe what we think when we hear “office utilization“.
We have been talking for a long while now about how the office must attract workers back. This UK CEO mentioned in this BBC story: “Location has always been important – but it is going to be even more so in the future”.
This corresponds to the conclusions of one of our recent guests on Locatee’s podcast, the Workplace Leader, Mark Needham, who also stressed the increased importance of premium locations in city centers as a way to attract workers back.
This is consistent with what we observe in Locatee’s data. City center locations in the USA and the UK are seeing higher peaks of occupancy than other office spaces in smaller cities or suburban locations.
Reasons for that are potentially complex. Of course the city centers are attractive. Activities that are available there – in the office and outside the office – play a huge role. But it may also be about urban living conditions, such as high rent, smaller surfaces. These conditions make the home a less attractive/optimal space to work in than the premium city office.
But whatever the reasons that are driving city workers back, we can already draw a relatively new conclusion for workplace leaders: peak occupancy statistics used to be primarily used to evaluate office capacity. And we may have looked at average occupancy rates and other metrics for office performance.
In the new dawn of hybrid working, peak occupancy is office performance.
I was asked by a journalist recently: with hybrid policies in place, a risk might be that the office becomes full one or two days per week, and space can’t be reduced as a result. What should companies do?
My answer? They should be happy about it! If you have 100% peak occupancy once a week, it just means you’re doing something right to bring people back.
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