DeJeana Chappell, EY National Workplace Leader and Senior Manager in the EY Corporate Real Estate Practice, describes the focus areas and priorities of a robust workplace reimagination strategy.

Contact DeJeana: [email protected] 

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The COVID-19 pandemic has given companies an opportunity to reimagine their real estate and talent strategies and self-disrupt legacy practices, philosophies and ways of working to shape their future workforce and workplace strategy. 

While many companies have evolved their workplaces in recent years, not all have confronted and fully digested both the real estate and talent implications of flexibility and remote work. The COVID-19 pandemic has both accelerated existing momentum on this topic and catalyzed new, and perhaps overdue, conversations.

There is an undeniable disconnect between historical office occupancy metrics and executive perception. Industry data suggests that, pre-pandemic, average annual office occupancy in the US across sectors hovered around 40%; a stark contrast to leadership perceptions that teams were onsite every day. In addition, the legacy equation that high office occupancy equals high productivity has been proven obsolete over the last year.

As executives struggle to reimagine their workplaces, three key focus areas have become tablestakes:

  1. Health and safety considerations such as air filtration, circulation, elevator protocols and cleaning protocols
  2. Cost savings such as square footage per headcount, geographical location strategy, reducing or eliminating space altogether, and real estate capex needs
  3. Cultural implications of flexibility, autonomy, productivity, personal accountability, collaboration and connection

A robust reimagination exercise must do the following:

  • Survey your employees to understand sentiment and needs, and know that feedback might shift over time
  • Capture leadership insights on business needs and objectives
  • Recognize that one size does not fit all
  • Leverage both quantitative and qualitative data to build a holistic story around the opportunity
  • Balance cost savings with human and cultural needs
  • Identify employee personas and their respective scenarios
  • Take a cross-functional and inclusive approach

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