February 2, 2024 — Multinational professional services provider Ernst & Young LLP recently announced the launch of its third annual EY Future Workplace Index, which tracks C-suite and executive sentiment and behavioral data around the workplace of the future. The Index found the number of respondents reporting a remote workplace model has plummeted from 34% in 2022 to 1% in 2023. Now, 80% of respondents say employees are in the office three or more days a week. This data confirms that the office isn’t dead; it just looks different. So what should executives do to maximize the value of the hybrid office?
It’s clear that hybrid work is no longer in a test-and-see period; it’s here to stay. As at least two to three days a week in office is the norm, leaders need to “earn the commute” and enable greater opportunities for productivity, collaboration and creativity than employees experienced working remotely. With this, there is now an increased spotlight on workplace investments — from AI integration to expanded office footprint and virtual collaboration resources.Mark Grinis, EY Americas Real Estate, Hospitality & Construction leader
Since the pandemic, organizations have prioritized hybrid strategies – with 80% of leaders confident in their current hybrid work strategy. Currently, 86% of employers have a policy that mandates in-office attendance a certain number of days a week. Not surprisingly, the biggest challenge employers are facing in optimizing their office space is creating the right kind of space for their employees (32%) and retaining/recruiting employees who are willing to go into the office (21%).
The institution of hybrid has put an increased spotlight on the workplace and its optimization and innovation, with 55% of respondents at small companies (251 to 1,000 employees) and 47% at mid-size companies (1,001 to 5,000 employees) increasing their office space footprint over the past 24 months. With artificial intelligence’s burgeoning availability to help the workplace, 44% of respondents stated they were already using AI to collect data that will help maximize and optimize the office space, and 38% stated wanting to apply AI to track the office’s sustainability and energy efficiency. Interestingly, only 2% of respondents said they were unsure or not planning to use AI within the workplace.
A full 80% of executives report their employees’ productivity was somewhat or much higher over the past 24 months. The question is no longer if employees are productive while working remotely, it’s how companies can emulate that productivity and create community in the office with investments in technology and innovation. In fact, 51% noted they are currently investing in newer high-tech office space with amenities; 63% are investing in more digital/virtual collaboration resources; and 65% are or are considering investing in establishing more predictable flexibility for employees.
We’ve determined that physical office space is essential to effective collaboration, creativity and growth, which alleviates some of the previous risk and trepidation associated with investment. Now it’s about striking the right balance between investing in physical office space and workplace technology innovation, with the end goal of optimizing the performance of the workforce in a hybrid model.Francisco J. Acoba, EY US Corporate Real Estate Consulting and Technology Practice co-lead
For more details on the EY Future Workplace Index and the firm’s services, visit EY. Enabled by data and technology, diverse EY teams in over 150 countries provide trust through assurance and help clients grow, transform and operate.