Unlocking potential: How tech titans are redefining their workspaces
Technology organizations are reinventing their office spaces to align with sustainability goals, enhance collaboration and meet evolving workplace expectations
CHICAGO, Nov. 16, 2023 – Faced with a new landscape, leading technology companies are examining their real estate portfolios and redefining their workplace strategies. JLL’s new Technology Office Spaces report explores what these tech companies are employing as their hybrid work strategies and how they are balancing flexibility with productivity.
Over the last few years, tech companies focused on rapid growth. From 2019 to 2021, the top 100 tech companies expanded office portfolios by 14 million square feet to accommodate workforce growth and protectively lease space for future needs. Recently, however, their focus has shifted.
“For a number of years, large tech organizations were dramatically expanding their portfolios,” said Rob Kolar, Division President, Technology, Work Dynamics, JLL. “Now, tech companies are looking at their space in an incredibly strategic way to address emerging priorities such as cost management, portfolio optimization, increased sustainability and balancing new workplace expectations and priorities.”
To act on these new priorities, tech organizations are seeking to balance flexibility with the benefits of in-office collaboration; optimizing portfolios to reduce operating costs; and creating office spaces that are efficient, enhanced and sustainable, as well as determining how they measure success.
Creating a hybrid policy that works for everyone
Although many tech organizations were early proponents of remote work, they now find more value in hybrid work models. For tech company employees, collaboration, culture and social connection are the most important drivers for seeking time in the office.
Globally, 79% of JLL tech sector clients encourage employees to work from the office at least some of the time, according to JLL Research. In North America, 62% encourage employees to work from the office some of the time.
“Companies are working to strike the right balance of hybrid to take full advantage of the benefits of in-person work – from team collaboration and enabling company culture to increasing employee retention and better training,” said Kari Beets, Senior Manager, Technology Industry Lead, Industries and Work Dynamics Research, JLL. “However, our research shows there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
Some tech companies still see remote-first or employee-choice workplace strategies as a way to compete for top talent anywhere – viewing it as a recruiting advantage. Many job applicants still show a preference for flexibility, even as companies are opting for a return to the office.
Allowing employees to choose which days they work from the office creates more flexibility for them, but some tech companies find specifying in-office days for teams, facilitates culture-building, cross-department collaboration and encourages connections.
Optimizing portfolios to reduce operating costs
Tech companies taking a hybrid approach have more flexible policies than in other industries. According to the report, more than half of surveyed tech firms have reworked real estate portfolios to optimize for hybrid workplace strategies.
“Tech companies report that they have more underutilized space than other industries, leading to opportunities to re-evaluate portfolios,” said Katy Redmond, Americas Co-Lead, Integrated Portfolio Services & Tech Industry Lead, Markets Advisory, JLL. “After oversubscribing to space during a period of rapid growth, tech firms are rightsizing their real estate portfolios.”
While portfolio reduction was the trend for tech clients over the last 24 months, tech leaders remain divided on real estate strategy for the next three to five years, with 40% saying their portfolio will expand. Some of this trend has been driven by companies cutting too much in 2023 and needing to expand space again to accommodate new growth and more employees returning to the office. Adapting space for hybrid work and more collaboration can also increase overall footprint compared to having dedicated desks.
“As needs for hybrid work become clearer, some of this space available for sublease will be withdrawn to accommodate for higher office attendance,” Redmond added. “Companies that shed space in the last year are looking to expand again and add spaces for hybrid.”
Creating spaces that are efficient, enhanced and sustainable
Organizations focused on creating sustainable and tech-enabled spaces are providing peak experiences for their employees. Though employees might return to denser spaces, there are more amenities, and the spaces are infused with work-enabling technology and designs.
Spaces that prioritize sustainability are also a top priority. Behind reducing operating costs, sustainability ranked as the second-highest priority for technology companies. Pushing beyond certifications, tech leaders are innovating to ensure sustainability is a part of their space to reduce their carbon footprint. Incorporating sustainability in real estate decisions helps organizations achieve their goals and can cut costs by decreasing energy consumption.
Additionally, seamless technology is essential for a hybrid workplace. Tech that allows easy reservations for desks and meeting rooms facilitates a better hybrid work experience. Tech that allows employees and teams to know who’s in the office and when, can facilitate better connections. Small, tech-focused meeting rooms for two to three people are becoming more common with updated seating arrangements that allow all people to participate fully – whether they are in-person or virtual.
“Workplaces designed with hybrid in mind often have a balance of ‘we’ space, including collaboration spaces, break rooms for socializing and conference rooms, and ‘me’ space like dedicated desks and enclosed offices,” said Kolar.
Intentional design and access in a shared workspace are not only key to transitioning to a hybrid work model, it’s also an opportunity for increased diversity, equity and inclusion. For example, adjustable workstations with ergonomic seats and badge-operated lockers allow for personalization and accommodation, while facilitating a sense of inclusion and belonging for everyone in the office.
Focused, quiet spaces allow for heads-down individual work. It is critical to provide a balance of spaces for collaboration and focus in the office to encourage attendance from everyone – from individual contributors to neurodiverse talent.
Companies employing a hybrid work model often strive for increased productivity; however, productivity needs to be defined by metrics most relevant to each tech employer, and sometimes looking at how to reduce inhibitors to productivity can be more helpful.
“Consider the various metrics used pre-pandemic – from financial performance of a business unit to employee retention and satisfaction, and everything in between – there was no one golden measure,” said Beets. “We need to employ multiple performance metrics when measuring success of hybrid work today. Even though workstyles have changed, orienting around business goals can help measure success.”
“Success does not come overnight, and adjustments to workplace strategies are needed, given the rapidly changing landscape of hybrid policies,” Kolar added. “Tech companies will need to continually adapt and adjust by tracking utilization and gathering employee feedback to iterate and improve their space. It is important to keep a pulse on employee experience and make continual adjustments for organizations to get the most out of their space.”
In an industry that thrives on balance of innovation and sustainability, JLL is the premier provider of strategic real estate advisory and facilities services for technology industry leaders, including SaaS, tech hardware manufacturing, electronics services and semi-conductors. With deep expertise in real estate strategy and intelligence, facilities management, ESG, trends, regulations and research, our global team of advisors provides the right alchemy of integrated tech, workplace strategies and a future-focused, proactive approach. Our value-driven partnership fuels productivity and efficiency, improves financial performance, enhances your competitive edge and optimizes the human experience. Visit us.jll.com/technology.
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