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

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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