Workers wield the bargaining power in return-to-office plans

More amenities and less floor space mark back-to-work transitions: survey


As return-to-work plans gather more steam, a survey of building managers and commercial real estate advisors found firms are largely deferring to their employees to determine what shape office life will take.

There’s one facet of the office’s future where workers are getting the most wiggle room: their schedules.

Most organizations plan to let employees pick how many days they will work remotely, according to a report by commercial real estate advisory Blue Skyre IBE. The firm surveyed more than 450 real estate professionals in the U.S. and Canada over late July and early August.

Respondents said remote work allowances will be key to firms retaining talent.

Office managers largely predicted a hybrid approach to in-office work, with 55% forecasting a balance of three to five days per week and 23% saying employees would split remote and office work 50-50. Only 21% said most of their employees would work remotely a majority of the time.

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Nearly half of organizations would also give employees access to wellness amenities and the flexibility to work from anywhere, the survey said. Most would award employees a one-time bonus and about one-third of companies would pay for employees to relocate.

The swell of perks comes amid a shift in the power dynamics that govern the labor market.

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With the workforce still down 3 million workers from pre-pandemic levels and the “Great Resignation” adding to the labor shortage, employers are going the extra mile, hiking wages and tacking on benefits to woo back workers.

Half of the firms referenced in the survey also said they plan to expand budgets to pay for building upgrades, like improved security, HVAC systems and technology, in addition to a fresh crop of amenities.

As a possible cost-saving measure, just under half of building managers said their organization would alter its building space. Within that cohort, 45 percent would shave space by up to a quarter and 32 percent expected floor plans to decrease by at least 10 percent.