The office is evolving. After months of lockdown, employees now want their workspaces to be comfortable, cosy and less formal. And with lots of greenery in the office and its surroundings. They appreciate timber features, comfy furniture and warm lighting.
After many months of remote working, many companies have – wherever possible – returned to offices and adopted various hybrid work models. PwC’s survey has revealed that 68 percent of employers believe that in order to maintain their corporate culture employees should be in the office at least three days a week.
Returns to the workplace are only natural following the labour market recovery. “Unemployment is starting its gradual return to pre-pandemic levels. According to the Polish Central Statistical Office, Poland’s unemployment rate stood at 5.8 percent in July and was close to the figure recorded in 2018-2019 when the labour market was not impacted by extraordinary non-economic factors,” says Małgorzata Mudyna, Randstad Professionals Regional Manager, Randstad Polska. An increasing number of companies are also planning to create new jobs. According to the data from Randstad’s survey “Plans of Employers”, their number has already surpassed the pre-pandemic level from late 2019. At that time, companies put recruitment on hold as they were unable to attract job candidates. They have since regained some confidence. Some think that now is the right time to reach out to those out of work and those who were considering changing jobs but put off their plans during the pandemic.
The office is a reflection of an organisation’s mission, brand and culture
According to recruitment agency Hays, the head office of a company is still an important part of a strategy for attracting employees. “Offices will host key meetings and serve as creative space where cutting-edge solutions will be developed. Many companies have taken advantage of the pandemic to have their offices refurbished to create nicer, safer, more comfortable and ergonomic workplaces for their returning employees,” says Karolina Szyndler, Director, Hays.
This view is shared by Michał Kłak, Senior Executive Manager at Michael Page, who says that office space has always served to build the image of a company and is a physical reflection of its mission, brand and culture. That’s why employers frequently include information on the office location in job adverts, photos or videos of office space in mailings, or post them on their social media accounts.
The starting base for an organisation
“We all agree that the role of office space is evolving. However, in order to achieve their business objectives, companies should provide appropriate workspaces for employees. We must remember that for many, and particularly for young graduates who have recently moved to large cities, it may be quite a challenge to organize a workspace at home. It may be especially tough when sharing a flat with one or two people, as this means three companies within one space. Not only will it interfere with the wellbeing of employees, but it may also put sensitive business data at risk,” says Artur Sutor, Partner, Head of Office Department, Cresa Poland.
According to Cresa’s expert, the office has always been and will be a starting base – a place for meetings, knowledge sharing and social bonding. “The offices of service companies such as Cresa are empty for most of the day. And this makes me happy as it means that our advisors are out meeting clients. It has always been like that. There are now also other companies in a similar situation that are implementing hot desking. Some office workstations will sometimes be unoccupied. However, no matter how much time my employees spend in the office, I have always thought that each of them needs their own workspace. I won’t economize on that, because I still firmly believe that people employers fight for on the market do need a place they identify with – not just hot desks,” says Artur Sutor.
Job applicants inquire about the location
So what do job candidates pay attention to? According to Randstad’s survey, the workplace location is a factor that may either attract or put off as many as half of Polish employees. “It is more important to those living in the largest cities who are increasingly facing traffic jams. A convenient location close to fast transport links and short commute times have become key as most people working remotely have already put the time saved on commuting to other uses over the past year,” says Małgorzata Mudyna. “More and more candidates ask about or want to see office space during job interviews,” she adds. The surroundings of a building are also likely to be a magnet in recruitment. Employees expect a variety of F&B outlets and easy access to services close to their potential workplace.
Spaces for relaxation and video meetings
Successive lockdowns have shown that not all errands have to be accomplished in person and it’s not always necessary to drive across half the country for a one-hour meeting. “We get many things done via teleconferencing. This has, in a way, been forced upon us, but this solution works and I’m confident that it will stay with us for long irrespective of the pandemic. However, for video meetings to run smoothly, we need appropriately designed and technologically equipped spaces,” says Artur Sutor. Michał Kłak has also noticed that employees report the need for investments in office technologies such as broadband internet access and new tools for connecting with clients and employees working remotely. “To ensure comfort and privacy during conversations, many companies have arranged new spaces dedicated to meetings via instant video messenger apps,” says the expert from Michael Page.
“The past year and a half have turned our lifestyles upside down. Managers who used to dress in suits put away their dark coloured jackets into wardrobes and few will take them out,” says Artur Sutor. “Offices have turned more colourful. You see more men wearing jeans, casual jackets or sports shoes. It is similar to office space itself. After months of having business talks from home on a soft sofa, we are starting to think about workspace a little differently. We want offices to be more comfortable, less formal, cosier, or homey. I think they will evolve in this direction,” says Artur Sutor, Partner at Cresa Poland. Karolina Szyndler adds that employees pay attention to greenery – both in the office and its close surroundings. They value timber features, neutral earth tones, comfortable furniture and warm lighting in their spaces. Additionally, noise reduction solutions dividing open spaces and giving employees some privacy are also becoming increasingly popular.
Waiting, uncertainty and … a supply gap in the next two years Labour market forecasts show that offices are and will be needed for a very long time to come. Occupiers are stepping up leasing activity and resuming relocation processes following a brief spell of uncertainty. However, it is likely that there will be nothing to choose from soon. “Last year, only three projects were commenced on the largest Polish office market in Warsaw: Skanska’s P180, Ghelamco’s The Bridge and Dor Group’s Dor Plaza, and earlier this year Skanska began the construction of its multi-phased office project Studio. That’s why we expect a supply gap in 2023-2024. The capital’s vacancy rate now stands at around 12.5 percent, which equates to approximately 760,000 sqm of available office space. More than half of vacant space is in buildings aged over 10 years. And new supply won’t be delivered until two or three years from the start of construction,” concludes Artur Sutor.