A few weeks ago my husband told me a research team would be coming in study his workplace. I knew it had to be some sort of productivity and usage analysis so of course I asked him to find out the name of the company doing the study.

The firm was JLL, the major commercial real estate firm whose research I had turned to for a recent client project. Curious as to what they were learning about office productivity, I spoke with JLL’s workplace strategy director, Bernice Boucher, who told me the average knowledge worker spends 40 percent of their time at their desk. Despite the changing nature of work and the growth of alternative workspace, the 40% number has remained relatively constant over the last 30 to 40 years, Ms. Boucher noted.

photograph by Nick Turner

photograph by Nick Turner

Contrary to what you might assume, implementing alternative work environments is not concentrated in a few tech-heavy industries. “We work across all sectors: insurance, banks, pharmaceutical companies, government, technical companies, consulting firms, fashion, advertising, media,” she noted. “All these companies are looking at new ways of supporting work.”

She shared the four primary reasons driving the trend toward alternative work environments from a corporation’s perspective:

1.     Financial.  Increasing profit and shareholder value comes down to increasing revenue or decreasing operating cost. Lowering real estate costs can make a huge impact on the bottom line.

2.     Business agility.  When companies can’t predict the market, future-proofing can come down to strategies that capitalize on the new ways of working and create a positive impact. Strategies such as hoteling and free-seating can allow head counts to grow while square footage stays static.

3.     Attract and retain talent.  Millennials are interested in working for organizations that have strong culture. They understand what their values are, and they want a sense of purpose. Companies in a war for talent often use workplace and workplace strategy programs to attract talent. Having autonomy to choose to work inside or outside office is a highly valued benefit, particularly by the millennial generation.

4.     Changing nature of work. Companies turn to technology to support the changing nature of work, which enables a strategy of working “anytime, anywhere and on any device.” They support an increasingly collaborative work style by providing huddle rooms and small meeting rooms instead of large private offices.

To read more on JLL and the transformative role of workplace strategy, click here.   


Untethered is a curated collection of news, trends and thoughts about remote working enabled by technology by Carolyn Cirillo, an LA-born, Brooklyn-based design writer, researcher and marketing strategist.

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