Fully remote work plummets, EY finds

Dive Brief:

  • Only 1% of businesses ask workers to spend one day or less in the office each week, down from 34% in 2022, according to EY’s Future Workplace Index, released Dec. 11. Eighty percent of respondents said they encourage or require employees to be in the office for three or more days a week. 
  • While the consulting firm called the move away from full-time remote work “welcome news for the corporate real estate sector,” it said in a press release on the report that organizations are challenged with optimizing office space. Smaller companies have increased office space, while larger ones have decreased it but enhanced its quality, technology and amenities, it said.   
  • Automation is instrumental to collecting accurate data, planning space utilization and optimizing workspace comfort, Francisco Acoba, corporate real estate consulting and technology practice co-lead at EY, said in an interview.  

Dive Insight:

EY’s third annual Future Workplace Index anonymously surveyed more than 500 U.S. C-suite executives and business leaders across numerous industries. When working to optimize their space, 32% of organizations reported that their greatest challenge is creating the right kinds of workspaces by balancing individual and collaborative spaces. 

In the last 24 months, 55% of respondents from small companies — those with 250 to 1,000 employees — have expanded their office space footprint, EY said in a Dec. 11 news release. Over the same period, 47% of mid-sized companies, or those with between 1,001 and 5,000 employees, increased their office space footprint, according to Future Workplace Index data that EY reported to Facilities Dive.

“Most organizations today are still operating [on] their pre-pandemic footprint,” Acoba said. Right-sizing, Acoba said, offers a potential to “tighten up the envelope” and operate at a more optimized 65% to 75% occupancy rate, fostering a more engaging work environment.

Acoba pointed to an increased number of Class A+ buildings with strong occupancy rates. Moving into upgraded facilities that are LEED-certified and more energy-efficient can not only impact the work environment but also contribute to carbon reduction goals, Acoba said. 

Artificial intelligence is identified as a key tool for optimizing the workplace, with 44% using AI to “collect data to maximize and optimize their office space” and 38% wanting to apply AI to track sustainability and energy efficiency.

In an ideal scenario, incorporating light sensors and daylight sensors that align with window shades can help optimize natural light usage and reduce reliance on electricity and internal LED lighting, Acoba said. Automation also plays a key role in improving occupant comfort by optimizing temperature conditions, eliminating the need to “fiddle with the shades every 20 minutes to make it work,” he said. 

With the rise of hybrid work schedules, “there is now an increased spotlight on workplace investments — from AI integration to expanded office footprint and virtual collaboration resources,” Mark Grinis, EY Americas’ real estate, hospitality and construction leader, said in the release.