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Multiple factors influence in-person work willingness in the post-pandemic era

Predictive calculation helps companies take an informed approach to hybrid work
The hybrid-work sweet spot for employees is around three to four days in the office, according to research by Colliers Canada | Chung Chow

The office market in Vancouver is in a period of readjustment, as companies continue to adapt to different work models following the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

To assist, real estate company Colliers Canada has developed a way to predict the number of hours a group of employees is likely to spend in a physical office space.

The tool takes into account the factors that most impact employees’ desire to work in-person: Company mandated days, type of workspace and the time and cost of commuting. The result is a more informed approach to hybrid work, according to a recent Colliers report on the tool.

Across Canada, 55 per cent of workers still feel reluctant to work at the office – a number that is slightly above the global average of 51 per cent. The main reasons for this reluctance are believing it to be unnecessary (17 per cent), not wanting to spend money (15 per cent) and a feeling of anxiety (14 per cent), according to a survey by Unispace, a workplace design and construction company.

In Western Canada, employees are logging more hours in the office than those in Eastern Canada. The Colliers report noted that 49 per cent of companies surveyed have finalized their plan for how they will approach the balance between in-office and remote work.

When assessing different work models, many employers are only focusing on singular factors and not the “cumulative effect of multiple things going on,” said John Duda, president of real estate management services with Colliers Canada.

“The [type of workspace] factor was the one that surprised us,” said Duda. “Really what it was telling us is: If I have privacy that’s suitable for my work, I will go in much more. Even though that was a surprise for the scale of the impact it has, the fact that people don’t like open offices is no surprise at all.”

Over a third of Unispace survey respondents indicated that they miss being able to have the same privacy as they do at home, while 29 per cent feel that they are more productive away from the workplace and 28 per cent believe they are more effective in a quiet space.

The impact of the time and cost of a commute is heavily weighted in Vancouver, due to 42 per cent of employees commuting from suburban cities, according to data from Colliers. In terms of time and cost, these employees bear the heaviest commuting burden, the report said.

“We’re seeing a few [companies] say, ‘Okay, so I’ve got offices downtown, but I’m going to put a satellite office in North Vancouver or West Toronto, because most of my staff are commuting from there.’ And, what you’ll see happen, is that attendance in the office will skyrocket because you’ve just cut their commute in half,” said Duda.

Employees across all of Metro Vancouver spend an average of 29 hours in the office per week, while those in Vancouver proper spend 24 hours a week, according to Colliers. This equates to three or three-and-a-half days of in-person office time.

Duda said that, by Colliers’ calculation, if a company required employees to be in the office for one to two days per week, those workers came in on average more than required. If the mandate was for three days, employees came in for all three days. When the mandate was four or five days, employees came in less frequently.

“It seemed to be gravitating to somewhere around three, maybe four days. And people were going to do that with the least amount of friction,” Duda said.

“What we’re emphasizing in this report is that it’s the cumulative effect of all these things. Don’t try to isolate a single thing when you’re trying to coordinate your business and look at how your space is designed.” 

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