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Boosting Office Attendance: Selling & Delivering Workplace Value to Employees

Dec 7, 2023
From our Total Cost of Occupancy Thought Leader Partner, CBRE. Many companies and their employees remain out of sync on the amount of time workers should be in the office, according to a CBRE and CoreNet Global survey of 235 corporate real estate professionals. This finding makes it readily apparent that companies must do a better job of aligning the anticipated benefit of the office with the employee experience and building a culture and workplace that supports that value proposition

View the full brief on CBRE's website here: Boosting Office Attendance: Selling & Delivering Workplace Value to Employees

Many companies and their employees remain out of sync on the amount of time workers should be in the office, according to a CBRE and CoreNet Global survey of 235 corporate real estate professionals. This finding makes it readily apparent that companies must do a better job of aligning the anticipated benefit of the office with the employee experience and building a culture and workplace that supports that value proposition. This report’s recommendations build on previous findings from CBRE’s Spring 2023 Office Occupier Sentiment Survey.

Office Attendance Is Mission-Critical for Corporate Success

Ninety-two percent of survey respondents indicated that the office is an important part of ensuring corporate success, with half holding this belief for all job functions.

Figure 1: Most Corporate Leaders Believe In-Office Time Is Critical

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Source: Occupier Survey, CBRE & CoreNet Global, November 2023.

Yet, corporate leadership expectations for office attendance remain out of sync with employee behavior. Survey respondents indicated that, on average, corporate leaders want employees in the office 3.4 days per week, while the actual rate is 2.8 days. Nearly 50% of employees are in the office only one or two days per week but only 17% of corporate leaders are aligned with this cadence. If companies can boost attendance by one or two days for those coming in less than three days a week, then employee behaviors will be more aligned with expectations. To learn more on actual attendance patterns, please refer to CBRE Consulting’s U.S. Office Attendance Policy Trends Q3 2023.

Figure 2: Leadership Expectations for Office Attendance Still Not in Sync with Employee Behavior

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Note: 18% of respondents reported that corporate leadership does not have an expectation for days per week and believes employees should work in the office as needed.
Source: Occupier Survey, CBRE & CoreNet Global, November 2023.

Respondents indicated that, on average, corporate leaders want employees in the office 3.4 days per week, while the actual rate is 2.8 days.

Forty-one percent of respondents expect that attendance will increase from current levels. However, over half of those respondents who expect an increase do not believe their employees are aligned with leadership beliefs about the purpose of the office. More action likely is needed to influence employee behavior.

Figure 3: 41% of Corporate Leaders Expect Increase in Office Attendance

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Source: Occupier Survey, CBRE & CoreNet Global, November 2023.
Over half of those respondents who expect an increase do not believe their employees are aligned with leadership beliefs about the purpose of the office.

Reinforcing the Value Proposition of the Office

While most respondents said they were communicating their expectations of office attendance to their employees, this alone does not appear enough to motivate employees to work in the office more frequently. Companies now are increasingly focused on communicating the value proposition of working in the office to their employees.

Two-thirds of respondents said that they have clearly defined and communicated the value proposition of being in the office to their employees. Interpersonal connections are critical to the most important values cited and therefore are difficult to foster in a virtual work environment: collaboration, knowledge sharing and relationship building. Professional development-based values such as mentorship, onboarding and learning & development are also cited by more than half of respondents. Fewer respondents indicated that the office was necessary to achieve goals that can be accomplished remotely, including productivity and innovation.

Figure 4: Value Proposition of the Office

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Source: Occupier Survey, CBRE & CoreNet Global, November 2023.
Two-thirds of respondents said that they have clearly defined and communicated the value proposition of being in the office to their employees.

Employee attendance improves when company leadership effectively communicates the value proposition of the office. Fifty-seven percent of companies that clearly communicated the value of the office reported that employees were in the office more than three days per week, while only 41% of companies that did not communicate any value propositions saw such attendance levels.

Figure 5: Minimum Three-Day Weekly Attendance Rates of Companies That Communicated Value Propositions vs. Those That Didn’t

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Source: Occupier Survey, CBRE & CoreNet Global, November 2023.
Employee attendance improves when company leadership effectively communicates the value proposition of the office.

Beyond simply communicating the benefits of office attendance, 37% of survey respondents said their companies are working on aligning the culture of the office with those benefits. Over half of those respondents employing change management strategies for greater office attendance are focused on having corporate leaders act as role models for the desired attendance rate and retraining managers to set new team standards for in-office working. Only 16% are putting employees hired during the pandemic through a reorientation process that encourages office attendance. Given that there are nearly 2 million more office-using jobs today than in 2019, such reorientation is strongly suggested.

Figure 6: Change Management Strategies for Greater Office Attendance

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Source: Occupier Survey, CBRE & CoreNet Global, November 2023.

Occupiers Continue to Match Portfolios to Future of Work

Even though the office remains mission-critical and attendance is expected to increase, 53% of respondents said they are downsizing their office footprints. Many are strategically positioning their leased and owned assets to align with their value proposition of the office and in turn help drive corporate success. To do this, almost half of respondents said they are redesigning their offices to accommodate new working patterns. One-third are experimenting with upgrading services and amenities to provide a better in-office experience and nearly one-quarter are relocating to newer buildings that have such features.

One-third of respondents also said they are measuring workplace effectiveness in helping to drive corporate success, including metrics on employee engagement, employee retention and space utilization.

Figure 7: Workplace Experience Strategies

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Source: Occupier Survey, CBRE & CoreNet Global, November 2023.
Many are strategically positioning their leased and owned assets to align with their value proposition of the office and in turn help drive corporate success.

The gap between companies’ office attendance expectations and their employees’ behavior likely will close in the near-term as corporate messaging, culture and the workplace are adjusted to match the value proposition of the office.

Attendance Employee Experience
CoreNet Global