4 ways to plan your return to the office

Create a workplace that works for your people

Most companies expect to be back in the office in early 2022
The office will have a renewed purpose in the future
Tech tools can drive employee experience and streamline operations

Corporate America’s return to the office will be different for every company, but for most, the office will remain the center of the work ecosystem. A physical office is central to each organization’s culture as it drives collaboration, innovation and enables professional growth. 

We’ve learned what works best by jumping into the trenches with our clients—and by utilizing technology to manage our own return successfully to JLL offices around the nation. While there is a critical opportunity for organizations to examine their workplace strategy, many companies are still solving their immediate needs.

Here are four action items to consider:

1.  Select office re-entry strategies for now and later

Health and safety are top priorities for people as they go back to the office, but there are many safeguards that help create a safer and healthier return. That said, workplace models should be built to shift. Tracking employee attendance and space utilization patterns from the moment you return can help guide your short-and long-term strategies. Most companies across the U.S. are ready to bring their employees back, at least some of the time. Where does your city rank in terms of re-entry?


As your employees return, prepare your space to ensure they feel seen and heard.  In a recent report from JLL, 75 percent of employees claimed they expect to feel protected at work when expressing their difficulties or concerns, so both mental and physical health will remain a key priority for employers to support their people.

To successfully transition into a post-pandemic workplace, begin by answering the following questions:

  • What safety, seating and operational needs will arise if 50 percent of your workforce is regularly back in the office? What about 75 percent and 100 percent?
  • Will you need flex space or third-party locations to balance employee options?
  • What capital spending is required to safely support the workforce?

If you don’t yet have a plan in place to bring your employees back to the office, our playbook for a future focused workplace can be tailored to your unique business purpose. Once you’ve hit your stride in getting back to the office, it’s time to optimize and prepare your real estate for longer-term transformation.

2. Design a workplace that functions for your people

Before the pandemic, individual desks took up an average of 65 percent of most office space. As companies move toward a more flexible model, that number is expected to fall to about 30 percent.

You now have an opportunity to repurpose your space to meet new expectations and use it as a tool to attract and retain the right talent. Our Workforce Barometer report indicates that 63 percent of the workforce now prefer to alternate between different places of work, highlighting the need to create an office space where employees want to be.  It will be critical that organizations align to new health and safety ideals by enhancing functionality, increasing seating choices, and refreshing meeting and greeting areas.

Offices are becoming purposeful and flexible. Many companies already embraced mobility or flex-space ahead of the pandemic, and hybrid work has a durable presence as the starting point in returning to the office. To get it right in the short-term, align your company needs to the following types of workplace models:

  • Office-centric is the preference of companies that believe their strong culture is built and fueled by in-office collaboration
  • Hybrid works for companies focused on innovation that can only happen in person, while also championing and supporting flexible lifestyles and personal choice of workspaces for their people
  • Remote-first fits companies focused primarily on cost savings with a culture that allows for flexibility and independent working with occasional in-person work or flex space options


Great office environments bring a company’s best to its clients and employees. Done correctly, collaborative and purposeful offices add extra value as social and innovation hubs. It is essential that your office re-entry plan serves your unique business needs for employees and clients.

Moving forward, your office design needs to embrace the changing needs of your employees, such as increased amenitiesspace for health and wellness, and areas for socializing and collaboration. This new open space, along with job creation and de-densification, will likely offset space reduction. Knowing and understanding trends and opportunities can make all the difference when it comes to costs. Our Fit-Out Cost Guide can provide you with an idea of what you can expect to pay for a typical office fit-out in the United States.

3. Invest in technology that enhances the workplace experience and efficiency

Technology is reshaping the modern office, and companies that utilize it to create smarter spaces will gain a competitive edge. Investments in technology can help organizations make data-driven decisions about their real-estate, help create a workplace built for employees’ needs and improve workplace performance. 

Some specific ways in which technology can transform your workplace include:

  • Using data to optimize your real estate footprint
  • Assessing your hybrid work plan and creating a mobile employee experience, regardless of location
  • Generating automated reservations and re-entry service requests
  • Reserving desks and utilizing AI to track office usage
  • Automating the buying process for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), disinfectants and other supplies
  • Leveraging sensors and AI to gather real-time data on how your space is being used
The positive impacts of a technology-enabled workplace on the employee experience, including increased collaboration, boosted productivity, and streamlined operations, can give any organization a leg-up in attracting and retaining talent. 

4. Mitigate leasing risks and identify cost-savings

The pandemic made transactions more complicated, and you don’t want to miss opportunities for savings. There are short-term and long-term opportunities companies can take advantage of to cut real estate costs. A few of these short-term opportunities include reviewing and restructing your lease, monitoring processes and procedures to ensure you’re in compliance with your current leasing terms to avoid overpaying on your office space, and renewing an expiring lease and renovating the space instead of relocating.

We help companies of all sizes identify the strategies that allow your company and your employees to thrive in a post-pandemic world. Speak to an expert to learn more about how you can nail your return to the office.

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