It’s no secret that the pandemic has changed the landscape of work in a massive way. From the dramatic rise in hybrid and remote work options to the demand for flexible work schedules, many organizations were forced to pivot in order to survive and thrive. In a post-pandemic landscape, however, it’s become increasingly obvious that industry-wide transformations are still taking place, and it’s marked a pivotal shift not only in how companies operate but how we can best serve those companies as well. 

When it comes to commercial real estate, however, simply adapting to change isn’t enough. Instead, building owners and landlords need to be at the forefront of innovation in order to meet the needs of their tenants and survive in a rapidly changing industry, which is why Industrious’ Chief Operating Officer Liz Simon recently spoke on a panel about why the tenant is always right at Commercial Observer’s 2021 Innovators Forum on Unleashing the Full Potential of Commercial Real Estate. 

As we continue to reimagine the workplace—including how we can “reboot” the office blueprint in order to meet a new era of workplace needs—here are four key takeaways on what both landlords and tenants need to do in order to meet those needs while bringing people back into the office.

Ditch pre-pandemic expectations.

The pandemic changed everything, which means it’s no longer prudent to address issues as a “return to normal,” especially when that version of normal doesn’t exist anymore. Instead, businesses—and building owners—need to be thinking about the future and creating a new, better standard for in-office work.

“When we polled 20,000 of our members in Industrious, what they’re saying is generally they’re coming in when they choose, not because their employers have said you have to be here on a specific day,” Simon said in the panel. “They’re making the choice when they come into the office, and that’s not employer directed.” 

This transition from employer-directed to employee-directed marks a significant dynamic shift when it comes to in-office work, which means your approach to attracting people back into the office needs to change as well. Forget what used to work, and start figuring out what needs exist now and how you can meet them.

Use data to find flexible solutions.

When it comes to driving businesses—and employees—back to offices, it’s all about finding flexible solutions that work for both parties. Some employers might prefer a small amount of fixed space with flexible options outside of that, while others might only want in-person space for meetings. Struggling to find the right solution? The more data you can gather, the easier it will be to determine what solutions you need. Collaboration is key, and a flexible approach will allow you to find what works for everyone involved.

“It really is going to range, and depends on the type of company, their needs, and their employee behaviors,” Simon pointed out. “Our current focus is figuring out what the key use cases are. There are probably three to five of them that people will coalesce around and will end up dominating. Those cases are what we’ll start to build, operate and orient around.”

A great example of this? Industrious recently had a large enterprise client who knew they needed space but wasn’t sure how employees were going to use it. Rather than going all-in on a robust build-out, they gave their employees one hundred access passes to determine who would actually use the space on a regular basis. And out of that hundred? Only 12 used it consistently. From there, they were able to use that data to design a more comprehensive solution that actually met their needs—and their employees’ desires—rather than utilizing guesswork to create a patchwork solution that nobody wants.

Embrace hybrid work.

Most employees want a flexible work model, which means hybrid work isn’t the temporary solution like many expected it to be. Not only do hybrid work options save businesses money, but they also reduce uncertainty and can even improve employees’ mental health—all of which make hybrid and distributed teams more attractive than ever before.

“[Plus]…many companies are saying it doesn’t matter where you are,” Simon explained. “So that’s part of the thing that I think employers are thinking about as their own value proposition and that feeds into what they need in an office environment.”

Translation? As more businesses begin to embrace distributed teams and hybrid work options, that means the solutions they need for office space will change as well.

Recognize that the purpose of the office has changed.

If you want to attract people back into the workplace, it’s all about the experience. More and more jobs can be performed at home, and—rather than facing a productivity crisis outside of the office as many expected—Simon explained that many organizations are experiencing a crisis of culture and employee engagement.

The best way to combat this is to accept that the purpose of the office has shifted, and focus on experience over expectations. Old solutions may not fix new problems. Instead, communication between building owners, service providers and tenants—as well as employers and employees—is key to designing relevant solutions. From there? You’ll be able to adapt to any issues that might arise, even as the office environment continues to change both now and in the future.

Book a tour to learn how Industrious helps create workplaces for hybrid or distributed teams.