Offices will repopulate over the remainder of this year, according to the EMEA Occupier Survey of 130 companies by global real estate adviser CBRE.
The survey says many of these office repopulations will be led by small companies – those with fewer than 100 employees – because they are further advanced in the return to the office. Over 80 per cent of small companies report all locations open. This compares with only a third of the largest companies, although most of them have opened more than half of their sites.
The study also highlights differences by sector. Over 70 per cent of life sciences companies report full reopening of offices, partly reflecting the difficulty of working from home in this sector. Banking and finance (57 per cent) and technology, media and telecoms (TMT) (46 per cent) are reopening at a more deliberate pace.
Richard Holberton, CBRE’s head of EMEA Office Occupier Research, said: “The return to offices is relatively limited, but companies are putting considerable effort into facilitating a fuller reopening, and most are targeting the second half of this year.”
The survey found that the majority of companies, and nearly 80 per cent of larger businesses – those employing more than 10,000 employees – are leaning towards some form of mixed or hybrid working pattern. Over two-thirds of companies favouring a hybrid model say their policies and approach have been set through consensus at corporate level.
Holberton also said: “Size and sector differences are substantial in this area. Across the sample as a whole, 20 per cent support a full-time return to the office for most employees, but for small companies, this rises to 63 per cent. Support for corporate-defined hybrid models is more than 60 per cent in the banking & finance and TMT sectors, while only about 50 per cent in life sciences.”
The office will continue to play a central – but different – role in how work gets done. Very few of the companies surveyed plan a fully remote solution and office-based work continues to feature prominently in their plans.
Nearly 80 per cent of corporates expect to settle on a workplace policy where work is either fully or mostly done at the office, or equally split. Only 15 per cent of companies expect a fully remote solution.
Companies are evenly balanced in their expectations for changes in portfolio size, with a third expecting to expand the amount of space they occupy over the next three years.
Holberton added: “Two compelling reasons emerge for the rising popularity of flex: its use as a way of evaluating different occupancy models, and as a means of providing employees with more choice over work location and environment. The second of these is a particular driver for large companies and they are increasingly willing to experiment with different space type combinations and reconfigure space to reflect evolving employee preferences and learnings from initial pilots.”