NYC’s biggest employers ready to get things back to normal

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Despite headlines heralding a steady exodus of businesses moving out of New York City, a new survey from real estate think tank CoreNet signals a return to near-normal come the end of the summer.

CoreNet – a global group whose members include more than 1,000 corporate end-users as well as service providers from the largest publicly held companies in commercial real estate – just delivered “Back to Work: What do NYC Occupiers Think?”

The survey of some of
the city’s biggest office occupiers provides an inside look at what most are planning
for in-office work following the retreat of Covid and, among its biggest
findings was that more than three-quarters of employers anticipate the bulk of
their workforce will return by the fall.

In a strong show of
support for the city’s future, 64 percent of respondents said their firms were
not planning to shrink their office footprint post-Covid nor are they planning
to grow it to accommodate social distancing.

More than half of the city’s biggest employers won’t be requiring their returning workers to have a vaccine but they will pushing wellness to the top of the agenda in a bid to make workers feel secure and comfortable.

NEIL AUSTIN

“It’s also exciting to
see our largest corporate employers making wellness a priority, because they
are leading the way forward to normalize wellness for workforces across all
sizes of companies,” said Neil Austin, CoreNet NYC Chair and Vice President of Portfolio
Management and Transaction Services at Omnicom Group.

Omicom, one of the world’s
largest advertising, occupies nearly 300,000 s/f of office space at 195
Broadway  and another 200,000 s/f at 200
Varick Street.  In May, CEO John Wren said
the company would return to “an office-centric culture” saying, “We believe it
enables us to invent, collaborate and learn together most effectively.”

With only a few
exceptions, most of the company’s offices are already open with some level of
staff working at the office daily.

The conglomerate’s strategy falls in with the results of the CoreNet survey that, overall paint a secure future for the city’s office market.

TOMMY O’HALLORAN

Tommy O’Halloran, CoreNet NYC President and Vice President of Business Development at Structure Tone, a global construction manager with 3,600 employees across 45 offices, commented, “A hybrid workforce is the new normal for corporate occupiers and a thoughtful approach to technology and connectivity is the only way to maintain culture across the workplace experience. We are seeing companies embracing this stance, and that decision will keep them future-ready.”

The survey’s findings mirror those of a survey by the Partnership for New York City released earlier this month that found 62 percent of Manhattan’s roughly one million office workers were likely to be back in person by the end of September.

The key highlights from the anonymous CoreNet survey of 60 senior-level occupiers with major offices in New York City were as follows:

Workplace Strategy

  • The majority of
    respondents (43%) said their firms would operate with a hybrid strategy, but
    were unsure of the frequency, while just under one-third (29%) said employees
    would be hybrid 1-3 days in the office. About 20% said they would return to the
    same level of in-office work as before the pandemic. Just 7% were going fully
    remote.
  • As part of the phase-in
    of occupancy planning after covid, two-thirds (66%) said their companies were
    not increasing square footage per person as part of occupancy planning post-Covid,
    while 18% of employers said they would do so. Of respondents, 16% said this
    decision had not been made yet.
  • In the long-term, around
    one-third (31%) reported that their firms would allocate for more space per
    person in New York City, while 53% said more space would not be allocated and
    16% stated that decision would be made later.
  • 55% of respondents said they
    were not planning to change the layouts of their NYC offices, while 20% were
    actively planning for this and 16% are opting to decide later. Nine percent
    said they were redesigning their NYC office layouts.
  • The lion’s share of
    respondents (64%) said their companies were not changing location strategy to
    have fewer people in NYC. Nine percent of respondents said their companies
    would be changing location strategy to have fewer people in NYC, while 27%
    responded that their companies might undertake this strategy.

Vaccine Requirements

  • 52% of respondents said
    their firms were not requiring vaccinations to return to in-office work in NYC,
    while 12% said vaccines would be required and 37% were unsure
  • 34% of respondents said
    their firms were providing resources toward obtaining vaccine appointments, while
    56% said no resources would be made available and 10% reported their employers
    might offer assistance
  • 77% of respondents said
    their employers were not offering on-site Covid testing, with 13% reporting
    this testing was being provided

Wellness

  • One-quarter of
    respondents said their staff was concerned about taking public transit, while
    56% reported their staff was apprehensive but planned to use it.
  • A majority (69%) said
    their employers have implemented programs to support wellness initiatives, with
    20% reporting their employers have not implemented wellness programs and 10%
    responding that these programs were coming soon
  • A commercial building’s
    attainment of the WELL standard was important to 40% of respondents, while 38%
    said it was not important and 22% was indifferent

In planning for their New York City employees’ return to work, the following wellness programs were cited most frequently as being implemented: obtaining the WELL Standard; the Wellocity Wave telehealth platform; gym reimbursement; unlimited PTO; video-free Fridays; wellness points for receiving the vaccine as a medical premium discount; wellness newsletters; virtual classes and more oversight surrounding mental health. 

SHEENA GOHIL

“Wellness has become a
crucial component in workplace planning as countless studies have quantified
the link between productivity and wellness. The pandemic has only amplified the
importance of healthy employees and buildings. In the coming years, we expect
that more companies will follow suit in prioritizing wellness initiatives taken
into consideration,” said Sheena Gohil, CoreNet NYC Advisor and Executive Managing
Director at Colliers.

Technology &
Management

  • The pace of implementation of
    technology changes to accommodate hybrid workforces was split, with 37% said they
    were adding new technologies to support hybrid workers; 31% said they were not
    doing so and 33% reporting they were planning to do so.
  • 53% of respondents said their firms
    would work internally to teach employees to manage a hybrid workforce,
    including the new technologies needed, while 6% said they were hiring an
    external consultant and 27% said they were unsure about the teaching approach
  • 63% said they would be leading
    change management internally while 20% said they were unsure about their next
    steps in change management and 4% said they were hiring an external consultant.
    Meanwhile, 14% reported no changes to implement.

Five technology
solutions were widely cited as being added to company offices: Density counters
to track the amount of people in space; virtual amenities for food and fitness;
touchless features; company apps; and occupancy and environmental sensors. Some
respondents indicated that the use of vaccine passports was a conversation
being had at high levels and others said they were adding space and real estate
modules to their current Facilities and Asset Management Tools.

The top-cited
reservation and concierge systems that are being rolled out include Robyn,
Flowscape, OfficeTogether, Embrava, EMS, Serraview, Couldbooking, Matrix, FM Systems,
Condeco and Modo Workplace.

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