For the world of tech talent, times have changed.
“In 2022, the world adjusted to new ways of working, and many companies experimented with new and exciting technologies to optimize the workplace,” writes Chase Garbarino chief executive of HqO, in the workplace experience company’s latest report . “In 2023 … the latest data tells us that many employees are dissatisfied with their workplace environments and are resistant to return to the office, despite more and more companies demanding it.”
As a result, he expects to see strong investments in workplace technology continue. Deloitte’s 2023 CRE Outlook Survey finds, for example, that 48% of commercial real estate CFOs will look to increase their spending on technology in the coming year, with many planning to increase that spending by 5% or more.
“As industry leaders consider adding workplace experience technology as part of their increased technology investment, they’ll have to make sure that they’re choosing the right technology to meet their business needs, especially in today’s challenging economic climate,” notes Garbarino in HqO’s annual edition of “The State of the Workplace.”
In 2023, corporate real estate leaders will continue to make investments in workplace experience but “under radically different economic conditions,” the report suggests. While office occupancy rates, for example, have largely rebounded from mid-pandemic lows, today’s rates are still significantly beneath their pre-pandemic levels.
There are multiple factors at play, but everything ultimately orbits around the recent Covid-fuelled, warp-speed shift to hybrid work, which now intends to stay.
The Workplace: A State of Flux
80% of companies now operate in a hybrid work setting, according to Gartner data. This is one area where a return to pre-Pandemic levels is not expected. It is predicted that by 2025, fewer than 5% of desk workers will prefer to work from a corporate workplace full-time—a paltry figure with a downward anticipated trajectory from an already dismal 17% recorded mid-Pandemic in 2021.
Gartner projects that the frequency of five days per week in-person work will continue to fall. They’re hardly alone; this reasonably safe bet corresponds with data from Leesman and other industry sources, which have widely registered the falling prevalence of full-time in-person work.
Combined with a relatively slow pace of post-COVID recovery in other areas, this shift “has led some in the industry to alter their long-term business plans,” according to the report.
Wong’s statement holds true even in major Canadian hubs such as Visier’s hometown, where the downtown core has long served as the vibrant pulse of the city, especially within tech. Vancouver houses the broader region’s “greatest pool of educated employees and is located at the cross-section of capital flows,” according to a report from Avison Young. The city boasted the highest tech-job growth in North America through 2020 and 2021, according to CBRE.
And yet little there remains the same as a few years ago. A full recovery to the “old normal” appears unlikely at this point.
“With different-sized tenants adopting a range of strategies … Downtown Vancouver is now in a state of flux,” stated last year’s Technology Occupancy Insights report.
Changing with the Times
Being in a state of flux is not inherently bad, suggests Garbarino, who believes some change is necessary to optimize the next generation of workspaces.
According to HqO, the critical takeaway is that “office space isn’t necessarily being used less— it’s just being used differently.”
“The importance of these built amenities will continue to change as the workforce itself changes,” the report affirms.
It’s not that (all) employees hate the office. Many still like, or even love, a genuinely great workspace with a positive corporate culture. Few actually prefer fully remote work, where socialization is void, collaboration is reduced, and even the meaningfulness of work can be diminished.
Like full-time office work, full-time remote work can wear down employees over time.
As a result, remote-only work is already down from pandemic highs, HqO notes, and “in place of remote work, hybrid work is evidently on the rise.”
The report projects that a vast majority of millennial workers will come to prefer hybrid work over full-time office work or remote-only work. 61% already feel this way, according to data from Gartner; it is estimated that well over three-quarters will agree by 2027.
The role of the office is shifting, therefore, but not necessarily losing any importance to an organization. It also means creating a productive, functional, and supportive digital environment for remote work is an essential task: smoothing out the workplace continuum from physical office to virtual world can reduce a lot of static that some temporary-minded hybrid work models may currently grapple with.
Overall, the report underscores a “time-sensitive imperative to optimize the office for hybrid work.”
Forging the Future Together
“Hybrid employees might be working from your office on a given day—but they might also be working from home, from a coffee shop, or from another place entirely,” the report notes. “This means that the needs of hybrid workers are both highly-individualized, and highly susceptible to change.”
It’s a complex web that each company needs to untangle with the help of workplace experience professionals, modern technology, and above all: the feedback of their own staff.
Given that recruiting and retention remain hot areas of discussion—”The talent pool is barely sufficient to fill the growing number of job postings in the tech realm,” observed Dialectica’s Maggie Da Prato late last year—listening to what workers want is a wise move toward building a strong team.
Operate Remote founder Shauna Moran was prescient in 2021 to pinpoint the hybrid work model as the future. Even then, Moran foresaw challenges many contend with today: “For the hybrid model to succeed, it’ll require some changes and effort from both management and employees,” she warned TechTalent.ca.
It doesn’t have to be a tug-of-war, though. Moran and others frame the ideal outcome as a win-win for both employers and their staff.
In 2023, experts agree it’s time for both companies and their employees to forge a consistent hybrid model that balances crucial in-person connections and productivity with the work-life flexibility that all tech talent deserves.