A group of diverse young individuals gather around a computer in an office setting.

Insights & Resources

Righting Employee Engagement

A group of diverse young individuals gather around a computer in an office setting.

“Before the pandemic, employee engagement and wellbeing were rising globally for nearly a decade — but now, they’re stagnant.”

This is the key takeaway from Related’s article “Understanding The Talent Crisis” in its recent The Future of Office Report. The statistics in the article are discouraging—Gallup reports, “60% of the world’s workers are not engaged at work, and 19% are actively disengaged.”

Why? Work life was capsized during the pandemic, and the ship has not been righted. Working from home was a solution for many, but it often equaled no separation from work and home life for most, hence the rise in burnout and drop in employee engagement.

Back to the Office?

The data in this article suggests that over 70% of employees prefer a hybrid workplace or being full-time in the office, with “92% of employees from top-performing companies report[ing] increased productivity and quality of work when in the workplace.”

It makes sense then that over half of employers, according to a Gensler survey, are working to bring employees back to the office as well as “rebalance workspaces or settings to support new ways of working.”

So, what does this mean for recruiting within the commercial real estate industry?

Work Location Impacts Recruiting  

David Poline, president and CEO of Poline Search Partners, says workplace designation is hugely impactful to his recruiting efforts—to a degree that he could not have imagined.

“It is a conversation on every job we work on. And there is almost always a disconnect between what the company wants and what the employee wants,” says Poline.

The pandemic exposed most workers to the personal freedoms that come with working from home and potentially the ability to forego a lengthy and stressful commute. Once an employee has a taste of this flexibility, it is difficult to return to the office full-time.

However, Poline explains, and as the article suggests, that employers believe that there’s been a drop in productivity as well as a dilution of a once vibrant company culture and camaraderie due to remote work. Many companies believe whether it’s two, three, four or five days, people need to be in the office.

With that said, Poline has noticed companies seemed to be more sympathetic to their employees accomplishing things outside of work during the workday, whether a personal doctor’s appointment or a child’s sporting event.

But they are still much more concerned about people being in the office than they were immediately following the pandemic.

Companies In Tough Spot

What does it mean to “rebalance workspaces” to make them more attractive to employees? Poline says office landlords need to make the atmosphere enticing to draw people back to the office and argues that it impacts recruiting and hiring as well.

“We’ve seen it play out both ways. If a candidate feels strongly about not working in the office, she walks away from the offer,” says Poline. “We’ve also seen where the company is able to convince the candidate of the benefits of working in the office, and she agrees and accepts the position.”

Poline thinks companies are in a difficult position. There remains a significant labor shortage, so employees can leave an in-office job to take a remote or hybrid job. And that’s a potential reality if an employer pushes for a full-time return to the office. Until a critical mass comes back to the office, this dynamic will remain in place.

Invest in Your People

Poline is not convinced you need fancy coffee makers or pickle ball courts to lure employees back to the office. Old-fashioned, employee-sponsored professional development and consistent investment in people goes a long way. In short, employees want to work with good people who respect them and treat them well. That’s the bottom line.

“Principles that are true about retention pre-pandemic remain true about retention now. And people will be excited about and engaged with their work if their company is invested in them,” says Poline.