What does the three-day office mean for real estate?

14 March 2024

The three-day office is proving to still be a huge challenge for the real estate sector. With many forced to work things out as they go along, balancing employee expectation and the need to fill office spaces is challenging. Guy Windsor-Lewis, CEO and founder of Locale, shares his advice on how businesses can more confidently keep up this challenging balancing act.

The pandemic certainly altered the way we work for ever. While remote working ended up a success, companies now face the struggle of attracting employees back to the office. Furthermore, many want to retain the practicalities of remote work and are opting for hybrid working, only returning three days a week, leaving swathes of workplaces deserted on Mondays and Fridays. With more companies adopting hybrid work as the modus operandi to both attract and retain the best talent, it is now widely accepted that offices will no longer be full five days a week. Notably, global tech firms such as Google, Meta, Dell and Amazon are all enforcing stricter measures to ensure employees are in the office at least three days a week. The key question then - how does the real estate sector design and adapt for this new era of working?



Many would argue that flexible office space is the future. Flexi-office space providers, once a draw for SMEs, are now enjoying demand from larger corporates who recognise the need for flexible office space, especially in smaller towns and cities. Flexi-office space providers also have the ability to create a unique working culture and are often in great locations.

But why then is WeWork struggling? And this is probably a question that leads to more questions than actual answers. Perhaps the starting point is the business and its high operating costs – did it scale too quickly and hype itself up too much? An interesting observation from the recent media coverage on WeWork points out that its struggles are due to members cancelling their agreements and leaving, so does it not have the right retention strategy? Is the pricing not flexible enough? Or has WeWork’s unique selling point of beer on tap become stale?


Focusing on the occupier experience

As humans, we love a sense of belonging and offices should just be that – a place to belong. Delivering a best-in-class occupier experience should be at the heart of any building success strategy. It’s not just about pop-up events though, it is about creating value by streamlining operational efficiencies, orchestrating and delivering curated events and ensuring all communication points with occupiers is covered; and that’s where bespoke content streaming via digital signage is proven to be extremely effective.

Those considering cutting costs when it comes to experience and engagement, because it’s likely that you will have almost empty spaces on Mondays and Fridays, would be foolish to do so. The competition is steep, and we live in an era where occupier needs and preferences are constantly evolving. Understanding these changes and keeping on the pulse is essential.

The need for operational efficiency has never been higher. Property management teams are being pushed to do more with less, which is where technology and automation come in – a seamless system like Locale has been proven to save hours per day across an array of property management functions.

As we disclosed in our latest PropTech Perspectives Report in July, these time saving efficiencies have the benefit of increasing customer satisfaction, reducing operational risks, and unlocking data driven insights. Overall, a typical building digitising its occupier facing processes can save over 100 hours per week in staff time, equivalent to over £100,000 per year for a single building.

It’s high time landlords and managers stop simply ticking boxes when it comes to occupier experience. Offices need to be looked at through a difference lens – they need to be seen as destinations, creatively rethinking the way in which space is used and managed; technology should not be an add-on or afterthought. It needs to be weaved through every touch point in the customer journey – from relevant information via content streaming and local services, to interacting with the building team and services. Furthermore, it’s not enough to simply have the technology – it is every stakeholder’s responsibility to use it effectively to realise its full potential.    


Position yourself in the local community

The pandemic was a stark reminder of how important the local community was to us. For many, it was a lifeline to receiving food, having a conversation and supporting fledgling businesses. It is why any occupier strategy should not just focus on the building but the community surrounding it. The benefit here is twofold. Firstly, this must form a part of any successful destination strategy where occupiers can feel part of the area where they can explore nearby amenities – also supporting  the hyperlocal economy. Secondly, it means communities can also benefit. They form a unique connect with the building and its occupiers creating a truly integrated community. At Locale, our curated experiences team and bespoke content streaming service can bridge this gap between a building and the nearby community. While we curate hyperlocal offers and promotions, we are able to help promote local charities, local heroes, purpose-driven organisations and initiatives.


Interpreting the data

Technology is a crucial tool to accumulate data. This data can be both quantitative through a platform or qualitative through targeted surveys and polls which can enable building teams to understand the state of the buildings and portfolios in real time. But effectively interpreting it in a timely manner is the key to its success. It ensures offices can be agile, adapting and pivoting according to the sentiment of its occupiers. From an operational perspective, the data can also help diversify spaces. Unused or even underused spaces can be maximised by leasing to smaller businesses or local organisations that may benefit from high quality space. Interestingly, we have seen that at King’s Cross in London where some of the office space was used as an afterschool homework club for local primary schools. Not only did pupils benefit from safe, good quality space, businesses in the same building offered their help to tutor some of the students. And this is just one example of how data can help build a commumity.

Whilst it seems that we are settling for the hybrid three-day week to be largely the norm (more or less), there is ultimately no guarantee that this is forever. And trends within an office can vary depending on location, connectivity, mix of occupiers and demographic. So, listening to occupiers and evaluating the data will increasingly be the crux of key decisions.


The three-day office is a moving feast

Cultivating an office for hybrid working is no mean feat and is a movable feast. Worker trends are still settling and combined with a clash between generations and shifting working culture, the three-day office is something we have to adapt to now and probably in the months and years to come. For now, we have to be creative, ensure we focus on the occupier and maximise technology. It’s a challenge that I know we can overcome.    

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