The current turbulence related to COVID-19 makes any economic forecast difficult. Under such conditions, one thing is clear: cost management is a strategic issue. In the medium and long term, companies will have to control costs to overcome this period and its consequences.

For service-sector companies using offices for administrative purposes, office space represents the second highest cost after staff. To ensure that they can continue in business, a reduction in these costs therefore involves the reorganisation and optimisation of their workspaces. Several options are available and all require a change of approach.

From remote working to office sharing

Now that they have experienced these recent months of forced conversion to the “home office”, or remote working, most companies have been able to see firsthand the effectiveness of these methods of working. Companies once reluctant to move in this direction are now having second thoughts. A survey conducted in July 2020 among companies in both German- and French-speaking Switzerland highlights a widespread willingness to move to remote working in the long term, after it was widely used in the spring of 2020 during the lockdown. Half of the companies surveyed stated that at least 80% of their employees were working from home during this period. Meanwhile, 72% of the companies in the survey stated that they are ready not only to continue with virtual meetings, but even to increase their number.

Allowing staff to work at home for one or two days a week is a first step towards cost reduction. Some 56% of the respondents intend to rethink their human resources policy and offer their employees increased flexibility for remote working or for their working hours. With the move towards the “home office”, companies will therefore have fewer staff in the office and thus need less space. This is a calculation made by almost half of the respondents when considering how to optimise the use of work space per employee through desk sharing or office sharing. This response has the advantage of being easy to implement and quickly reduces costs per square metre.

New workplace concepts

For today’s companies, the challenge is also to adapt to employee needs and to design new workplace concepts to accommodate these needs. Large companies have signalled the end of the era of the one-person office which consumes so much space. The open office landscape, in which the employee spent the entire day, is also a thing of the past. Effective workplace concepts are the opposite of these traditional models. The new workplace concepts include areas for concentration and focused work alone, as well as social areas where staff can gather and interact to the benefit of the organisation, but also for relaxation.

While meeting rooms are still essential, it is equally essential to provide employees with genuine spaces for informal discussion and collaboration. This presupposes a willingness to move in this direction and, above all, implies rethinking the use of space… or even relocating, if necessary. In fact, more than 20% of companies are considering relocating within the next three years. Some intend to improve their workplace concept, as well as reduce their rental costs.

This innovative state of mind is more in line with the rhythms of the employee during the working day; in this sense, it is healthier and guarantees the employer greater creativity and efficiency. When employees are in their “home office” they can tackle tasks that require more concentration, but they are nevertheless certain of having a place in the office where they can reconnect with their colleagues and communicate with them more easily. In fact, the real aim of new workplace concepts is to foster these synergies.

Benefit from constraint-free space

Establishing a suitable human resources policy is fundamental to cost reduction. Limiting lost space is just as important. Remote working and desk sharing are also an appropriate response. Once they have been introduced, they enable a relative and appreciable saving of space, particularly in areas where space is inflexible.

This lack of flexibility is a general problem in the Geneva market, which suffers from an extremely ageing building stock that acts like a straight-jacket on tenants. It is these structural constraints that “eat up” so much space. Freeing the organisation from these constraints is the best way to optimise office space and reduce costs. The ideal situation is to benefit from a completely open area at the outset, a space which is very easy to fit out and which is likely to enable tenants to get the most use out of the space they have leased.

Relocating to a new, modern building has the advantage of offering operational platforms that allow real freedom of layout. That’s better for the individual employee and the entire organisation! By complying with the highest standards of sustainability, buildings designed according to environmental principles, such as those in Green Village, ensure savings on fixed costs which are already relatively low. And in this period of energy transition, this factor should not be overlooked.

Discover the answers

What are the impacts of the current crisis on the office market?
What are the best practices in terms of office design?

Discover the answers to these questions in the interview with
Sophie Carliez, Senior Vice President, at JLL.