• Home working is emerging as the preferred set up for many workers around the world.
  • With a flexible definition of the workplace, it will be shaped around worker preferences.
  • Prioritizing human wellbeing will be key for employers.

The nature of work, the workforce and the workplace will shift radically in the next few years. As hybrid office/home work emerges as a preferred set-up, businesses need to reinvent themselves with the workforce front of mind. In a future of work that is increasingly worker-centric, the human experience will take centre stage.

This future of work is not new – it is a path we have been on for many years, and most of its aspects are well-established, from hot-desking and remote working, to higher levels of employee wellbeing and satisfaction. What is new is the rapidity of transformation of the notion of work. Trends in the way we live and work have taken months rather than years to become deep-rooted – there is no going back to the old normal. Workforce preferences have changed, and employers will need to lean into them to win back office workers in 2021.

It will be a long path to follow in order to thrive and flourish, and this new world of work will be about identifying and recognizing workforce preferences, shaping a workplace model wrapped around them, and deploying a hybrid model to enable work from anywhere.

The liquid workforce

Accepting that they may never operate again as they did pre-crisis, companies realize that the ability to adapt to new and changing conditions will be essential for success. Employers will have to proactively address changing preferences and concerns to keep their top talent, adopt better health and wellness programmes, and provide experiences for their employees anywhere.

There is no roadmap to follow. Instead, we need to navigate the future of work with the agility to adapt to changes throughout 2021 and beyond. This is no mean feat as there are three considerable targets in sight: one, enable hybrid work; two, empower and engage employees wherever they work; three, manage and sustain on-demand occupancy planning. We can already celebrate the birth of hybrid work, and cry “long live remote working”.

The trend toward hybrid work ecosystems will increase rapidly, and by 2025 we predict a world characterized by a dispersed, digitally enabled, liquid workforce. Work will not be somewhere you go, but something you do.

However, in a future of work without boundaries, employees will expect a safe, productive and seamless experience that satisfies personal and professional needs wherever work happens. The hybrid-first model must meet this requirement, and the role of the real estate industry will be to provide a high level of comfort with the hybrid model and to help organizations navigate the deep transformation needed.

Resiliency through the hybrid model

Our clients want to understand how to “maximize workforce agility and resilience to address future disruptions and risks”, and they talk about “empowering employees with flexibility choices”.

Companies must consider boosting remote-working capabilities at scale and enabling work from home through the hybrid model. In our worldwide survey of 2,000 employees, new expectations about the hybrid model have been voiced that employers can no longer ignore. We firmly believe that it can match shifts in demand of the workforce and enable a high level of resilience.

While the workforce expects to have the ability to work from anywhere (going from 1.2 days a week at home pre-pandemic to 2.4 days post-pandemic), 74% still want to come into an office. Employees are strongly pro-office (70% say it is more conducive to team building and management support), while being attracted by a better work-life balance. A conscious, local and healthy lifestyle has become as important to employees as finding a sense of purpose in their work.

In essence, the future workplace will be anywhere and at any time, with the traditional office remaining a hub of social interaction, collaboration and innovation, and one of many instruments to drive sustained human performance, experiences and wellbeing. Employers will need to care for their employees like they have never done before, especially with regard to their health, wellness and mental wellbeing, which includes a recognition of the health footprint left by the pandemic.

Finding and driving purpose will be a key priority in the new world of work, and the workforce will have a highly influential, if not direct, role in deciding new future of work scenarios. A new purpose for the office has emerged by defining how work is done and how workplaces can help to ensure continuity and fluidity between in-office work and remote work.

Human experience will be vital in shaping the post-COVID work future
Human experience will be vital in shaping the post-COVID work future
Image: JLL

We are entering the golden age of the worker. With a human-centric focus, companies need to rethink how they shape work patterns, while new ways of working will need to be adapted and reinvented to meet employee preferences. One in three employees are asking for renewed collaboration practices, less dense work environments and digital interactions when possible.

Executive leadership must consider five key opportunities:

1. Prioritize human health and wellness and evolve their mobility programme to enable work from anywhere

2. Reimagine the future of the work post-COVID-19 and start building scenarios toward 2025

3. Explore “hybrid” workplace mobility for greater future resiliency

4. Consider global real estate portfolio transformation strategies with a liquid footprint to meet a dispersed workforce

5. Accelerate workplace technology transformation investments to enable a digital workforce

The opportunity to reimagine the future of work has never been stronger, and companies should explore solutions that fit and flex with their organization best – particularly the hybrid work model combined with a remote-first and digital-first approach. Universally, whatever the enterprise, there should be a new focus: always-on transformation leading to always-on resiliency.