The future of the office might depend on how we commute

Employee behavioural changes are creating great uncertainty for office real estate. Will employees go back to the office? This is the big question that everyone is trying to answer.

Last week, our team attended The Future of Office Space Summit and we shared some of our observations.

When will employees go back to the office?

The consensus is that the workplace as we used to know in the pre-COVID era will no longer exist. However, companies and landlords hope that the current scenario is not the final landscape either. The expectation is to have flexibility but with a higher headcount in the office.

Vanessa Rader, Head of Research of Ray White, presented some interesting data on the key motivators to visit the office. The top 5 ranked reasons were:

  • Socialising with friends/colleagues (44%)
  • Collaborating with colleagues (44%)
  • Establishing a boundary between work and home (32%)
  • Having in-person contact with my manager / report (31%)
  • A better working environment (30%)

We found it curious that mentoring others was the last motivator, with 14% of responses. Currently, a knowledge gap is visible in many industries. In recent years, staff has been promoted to fulfil company demands whilst not necessarily having all the required skills. Having senior employees mentoring and passing on knowledge would be beneficial for companies.

A turn in the tide might be coming to Australia if unemployment rates increase. Employees might feel the need to be more present at the office.


The Future of Office Space Summit was held on the 19th of March 2024 at the Hilton Sydney.


Encouraging employees back

Companies have been investing in their workspace to attract staff back, by moving to more premium locations or revamping their internal spaces. The office has become more flexible – hot desks and alternative workspaces being the new norm. The goal is to have a bit of home in the corporate environment, such as lounges, social areas and quiet rooms. The latter has been replacing big meeting rooms for employees to have individual space or collaborate in small groups.

Landlords are going above and beyond to compete in a tight market, especially premium buildings. Their initiatives include:

  • New or redeveloped commercial buildings have a hotel look and feel with premium features.
  • Lobbies have now become multifunctional spaces. On top of traditional cafes, they have working stations to allow overflow staff to work in the premises when tenants’ desks are fully occupied.
  • Premium end of trip facilities.
  • Promotion of events, classes and other activities to attract people to the office.
  • Investing in ESG responding to companies and employees’ values.

It is common sense to say that commuting is probably a major reason for people who prefer working from home. However, commuting was not much discussed during the event. The subject was touched on when it was mentioned that being close to a transport hub was desirable when choosing a new office location.

With the current housing crisis, it’s fair to say that in coming years people might be living further and further away from their jobs which will increasingly affect their appetite to travel to the office. We brought the topic up in one of the panels and asked if companies were implementing initiatives to mitigate commuting as a pain point.

No one present had initiatives in this sense, but two examples of other businesses were mentioned. One company pays for employees Opal fees. Another provides a shuttle bus from the nearest train station to alleviate the last-mile journey.

We have recently published a blog post on companies encouraging electric bicycle uptake as a way to resolve commuting resistance.

The way we travel to work encompasses multiple areas including public and active transport networks, city planning, sustainability and obviously employees return to the office as discussed above. It looks like this could be a major topic in the near future and we might see more innovative initiatives soon.


In your opinion, what is the major deterrent for people to go back to the office?


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