A new and detailed survey of New Zealand office occupiers by CBRE New Zealand has proven that that the engineering sector’s love of the office is still very much alive and well.
CBRE’s New Zealand Office Occupier Sentiment Survey 2023 Hybrid Working In The New Zealand Workplace also shows that not only is the office far from dead across the board, but that over recent years New Zealand businesses have defied global trends and embarked on their own unique path.
The first detailed, quantitative data coming purely from NZ companies on this evolving market, the survey report provides insights from 66 corporate real estate executives whose organisations represent 13 sectors and occupy 221,000 sqm of office space across Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. The report reveals that office attendance varies widely based on industry, organisational size, and where decision-making sits. Attendance ranges from 2.5 days a week for the public sector to 3.9 days a week for the legal sector. Professional services firms including engineers sit at 3.6 days per week.
It also shows that New Zealand’s experience throughout the pandemic and subsequent ‘return to office’ has been significantly different from our global counterparts:
• 65% of NZ organisations surveyed have adopted hybrid working in a form that reflects office based work with a regular remote element – versus 22% in the US and 33% across Asia, which have a greater prevalence of either remote or office-based modes.
• NZ engineering / professional services firms sit at 70% office utilisation across a typical work week, compared with a 59% Kiwi average and 48% to 50% in the US between late 2022/early 2023.
Key insights from the report include:
• 52% of NZ organisations have changed their workplace design as a result of new ways of working. Nearly 90% of survey respondents have reduced, or are looking to reduce desk/workstation numbers and space allocated to traditional generic meeting rooms is also on the decline. Offsetting these changes there is increased focus on providing more communal and collaborative spaces alongside more private quiet spaces and focus rooms.
• Occupiers are relocating to better quality office space to respond to the increasing importance of building amenities, and primarily public transport. 83% of respondents have indicated that being close to public transport is the most important building/location-level amenity for their organisations. Car parking was cited as important by 46%, and proximity to the main road network was only important to 20% of occupiers.
• Although hybrid working is considered to have had a positive impact on organisational culture, with 73% of respondents believing that the experience has been at least “somewhat positive” or better, the top challenge arising from hybrid working is keeping and building a strong culture when people are in the office less.
Kirstin Cooper, senior workplace consultant, New Zealand, says: “We are answering the question we hear most often from occupiers: ‘what is everyone else doing?’ The survey has validated many things we were hearing anecdotally, but has also offered some surprising insights into what is actually happening and where the future of work is heading.
“Keeping and building a strong company culture is emerging as the greatest challenge in relation to new ways of working, and we are having conversations with organisations about what that means to them in an evolving hybrid era. What is clear is that the onus is now on employers to provide high quality workplaces and amenities: the better the work environment, the more likely people are to work from there. Defining a hybrid working strategy is crucial to getting this right, and we recommend occupiers take the time to understand how their people work, how they use their space, and what workplace elements are most important, so they can make well-informed real estate decisions. By understanding what attracts employees to work from the office and what spaces best support the activities they perform in the office versus remotely, occupiers can create a dynamic and engaging work environment that really ‘earns the commute’.”
Zoltan Moricz, executive director Research for CBRE NZ, says: “This survey provides a valuable counter argument to the ‘office is dead’ mantra that is so often rolled out. The office is not an endangered species; it is evolving as organisations start to implement workspace design changes that reflect the new ways of working alongside evolving location and building-specific requirements for amenity.
“One thing we are watching carefully is the influence of senior leadership on hybrid working and office attendance, which is expected to increase in the next few years, leading to more time spent in the office. This is particularly relevant as the survey also shows that nearly a third of organisations are currently taking a wait-and-see approach to their real estate strategy, reflecting leadership uncertainties around the cost/benefit of hybrid working, and the optimal balance of work.”