In a comprehensive examination of 119 workplaces spanning 22 countries, AWA, a renowned global workplace consultancy, has unveiled that employees are still averaging a mere 1.75 days in the office each week.
The findings, aggregated between April and May 2023, representing establishments employing a collective workforce of nearly 155,000 individuals, showcased a slight upswing compared to AWA’s study a year earlier.
This implies that despite certain employers’ attempts to compel their staff back to the physical workspace, office attendance has steadied.
Marking AWA’s third iteration of the Hybrid Index, the research underscores organisations’ responses to the hybrid working paradigm by optimising desk utilisation within office premises and curtailing their real estate demands.
A substantial 37 percent of employers conveyed intentions to downsize their office footprint through means such as divestitures, subletting, or amalgamation. This trend stems from the growing efficiency of desk utilisation as companies adapt to the altered dynamics of hybrid work, manifesting as a surge in the average occupied desks from 33 percent to 48 percent in the past year.
Hybrid working policies are still lacking!
Nevertheless, AWA’s findings unveiled a conspicuous statistic: three years after the pandemic-triggered work practice metamorphosis, nearly half (46%) of offices lack a defined hybrid working policy. Remarkably, instances where employers stipulate a specific weekly office presence for their workforce were met with significantly fewer in-office days. This underscores the notion that coercive measures to repopulate office spaces have proven ineffective.
Commenting on the results, Andrew Mawson, the visionary behind AWA, stated, “While the statistics denote a marginal uptick in office attendance, our overall assessment suggests a plateau in the hybrid working trend. Astute employers are leveraging this new reality to enhance operational efficiency by optimising desk utilisation and downsising real estate requisites. This could potentially lead to a gradual accumulation of vacant office space over the next 5-10 years as leases lapse, thereby exerting downward pressure on rental rates and asset valuations.”
The pivotal findings from the Hybrid Index study encompass:
- A global average rise in office attendance to 35 percent, a notable elevation from the 29 percent recorded a year ago, aligning with the trajectory identified in the previous 2022 Hybrid Index.
- North America depicted a negligible shift, with employees visiting the office for less than 1.5 days weekly on average.
- In the UK, the office attendance rate increased from 1.45 days to 1.6 days per week over the past year.
- Latin America showcased substantially higher in-office attendance, averaging 2.15 days, while Asia exhibited an average of 1.8 days.
- A preference for in-office presence on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays persisted, though Monday attendance displayed an improvement. Conversely, Friday witnessed less than a quarter of employees choosing to commute.
- Within the study, 70 percent of offices recorded attendance rates below 40 percent, with merely five offices demonstrating attendance rates exceeding 60 percent.
- Notably, technology companies witnessed a substantial resurgence in office presence, reflecting an average attendance of 32 percent, a noteworthy surge compared to the previous year’s 15 percent.
- With a reduced demand for office space, nearly 37 percent of organisations expressed intentions to consolidate their real estate holdings, predominantly through subletting or negotiations with landlords. Some are awaiting lease expiration or repurposing spaces for alternate uses.
- Remarkably efficient desk usage was highlighted in the UK, requiring a mere 59 desks per 100 employees, in stark contrast to the US, which exhibited the least efficiency at 107 desks per 100 employees.
- It emerged that employees were not strictly adhering to employers’ directives regarding in-office attendance. Surprisingly, 46 percent of the surveyed offices lacked well-defined hybrid working policies, resulting in an average attendance of 1.4 days weekly—similar to firms mandating a two-day weekly presence. Even when organisations dictated a three to four-day weekly presence, staff exhibited an average of merely around two in-office days.
- Andrew Mawson emphasised, “Our experience suggests that hybrid working impacts a gamut of aspects, including employment contracts, skillsets, recruitment strategies, workspace design, and security. While some organisations adopted a ‘wait and see’ stance post-pandemic, we advocate comprehensive hybrid working policies to address diverse challenges and ready themselves for the future.”
This study underscores the continuing evolution of workplace dynamics as businesses strive to optimise their utilisation of physical office spaces in the face of a transformed working landscape.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.