Workers around the world are fond of hybrid work. Is it a threat to the property market?

A report from Advanced Workplace Associates found that compared to the rest of the world, North American workers go to the office fairly infrequently.
Written by Jada Jones, Associate Editor
Woman discussing work on video call with team members at office
Image: Getty

Hybrid work is becoming the new norm in the workplace, a new survey from Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) confirms. With that trend, a new concern emerges – how is hybrid work affecting the property market? For companies renting a few floors in a corporate building, the impact could be minimal. But companies that invested millions in amenities like fitness centers and child care facilities might be feeling the burn.

"The hybrid work genie is out of the bottle and organizations have a real opportunity to work with their employees to find smarter, more efficient ways of working and make better use of their real estate," Andrew Mawson, managing director of AWA said in a statement. "We believe this will have a profound impact on the property market, which is not currently being recognized by the industry."

Empty desks and unused amenities might drive some companies to downsize office space or sub-let parts of their office. Tech companies are combating this issue by redesigning office buildings to decentralize office environments around the traditional cubicle style. Instead, tech companies are looking to create office spaces that foster collaboration and team bonding.

The shift in office attendance and the growing sentiment that hybrid work is here to stay means a shake-up in the property market is imminent. 

SEE: The rules of work are changing and hybrid work is winning

To reach this conclusion, AWA collected data from almost 80 offices in 13 countries across 13 sectors, accounting for nearly 80,000 employees. The study's goal was to track how many days a week employees in a hybrid work environment go to the office to work.

The survey found that, on average, workers in the US go to the office the least, averaging just over one day a week, compared to the global average of 1.4 days a week. The survey concluded that people are in the office on average about 26% of the time, and employees prefer to go to the office on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

In the US, office attendance peaks on Wednesday at 31% and falls drastically on Fridays to 12%. Pre-COVID, workers went to the office about four days a week. 

Out of the surveyed companies, 60% do not have a hybrid-working policy. Of the remaining 40% with hybrid policies, the most popular was to mandate employees work in-person two or three days a week. However, companies with a policy of employee attendance of two to three days a week saw that the policies were not followed by employees.

According to the survey, the most effective way for companies with a hybrid policy to get employees to come to work is to allow individual teams to set their own policies and schedules. Team-specific in-person policies see employees come to the office just over two days a week, more than any other hybrid policy.

SEE: As living costs continue to rise, more employees call for hybrid work

In a hybrid policy that mandates two or three in-office days, employees only come to the office on 1.6 of those days. In two-day-only policies, employees go to the office for 1.1 days, and three-day policies result in 2.1 days of employee attendance, the survey found.

Across sectors, the survey concluded that in-person office attendance is highest in the banking sector, as 47% of employees within this sector work in person on any given day. Conversely, on an average day, only 15% of tech workers go to the office to work. 

Across all 13 surveyed countries, in-office attendance does not exceed 39% on a given day, with North and Latin America being the lowest at 32% and 25%, respectively. However, the starkest contrast the study found was the nature of hybrid-working policies and in-office attendance between employees in the US and the UK.

Overall, surveyed employees in the UK go to the office more often than US employees by more than 4% each day. This difference could be attributed to U.S. employees enjoying clearer boundaries between their work and personal lives. 

Other factors could be at play; for instance, access to public transportation and mandated annual leave are more common in the UK than in the US, making hybrid work more attractive to US employees.

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