How do you get Employees Back to the office?

Analysis

György Antal, Director – Head of Permanent Placement, Adecco Hungary

The pandemic has changed the functions of the office in several ways, not least that conventional workspaces have been replaced by hybrid working as the standard.

Despite this, there has been a general intention among many businesses to bring employees back to the office. The question is how?

The office is no longer simply the primary place of work as it was in the past but a communal space for social interaction and human relationships. With home office becoming a standard working pattern, many companies seem uncertain about their long-term need for current office space now and in the future.

The inefficient use of rented space has become a regular topic of discussion among the senior management of many companies, not least from a cost-control perspective.

There has been a general hesitation about moving to new offices, in response to which property developers are reconsidering speculative new projects. A further 210,000 sqm of space is under construction and planned to come to market from 2024 onwards.

As a result, the vacancy rate in the Budapest office market has moved back into the double-digit range from its record low levels of recent years, reaching 13.1% in Aprilin ‘A’ category offices.

One answer is the redevelopment of offices through Fit Out work. Modernizing community spaces is a progressive direction that fits in with the digital and experiential needs of new Generations Y and Z. However, not all companies can cover the increase in fit-out costs.

Another forward-looking trend is creating ESG-compliant offices with modern facility management, which can help make them more attractive to young people.

Other companies are waiting for their current lease contract to expire to renegotiate terms and conditions to meet changing demands. It is now a tenant-driven market with strong bargaining power.

Flexibility Required

A high degree of flexibility and adaptability is needed from both parties. The impact of the changed environment means that all contracts now must consider various flexible scenarios for the future.

A large community of employers in Budapest has approached employees via a survey to gauge their willingness to return to work in those companies where the proportion of home working is still higher. It found that a third of the workers surveyed stubbornly reject a unilateral return to the office.

The response to this must be careful planning if the return to the office is to be successful and the best core professionals retained. Location and a modern environment form a solid basis, but what are the extra factors that turn an office into an attractive community space?

A workplace with a good atmosphere will be inspiring because it brings out positive emotions in employees, strengthens interpersonal relationships, boosts creativity, and makes them more resilient to stress and adversity. A good company culture attracts people and makes for more loyal employees.

It all starts with company culture. Caring, listening and taking responsibility for others are paramount in building community. In addition, fostering an innovative company culture is best done by not simply focusing on finding who made a mistake if things don’t go according to plan.

A strong culture creates a strong community. Innovative thinking is valued, and emotional intelligence is enhanced, with empathy, responsibility and trust at the core.

If a company has a culture that employees love, they will want to come to work and be passionate about what they do. For now, the general conclusion is that, in the longer term, we need to prepare for a hybrid working system. Those companies that have the means to provide this but reject the possibility of home office in a rigidly ultra-conservative way will quickly find themselves at a competitive disadvantage in terms of human capital.

For the hybrid ratio to be restored to a level consistent with a company’s intentions and long-term plans, it will be necessary to make our offices attractive environments from a human aspect.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of October 20, 2023.

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