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Supporting a hybrid workforce, do smaller estates hold the answer?

New flexible working regulations came into effect on 6 April 2024. While some employers are attempting back-to-office mandates, others are incentivising workers to come into the office for at least three days a week. With FMs tasked with enhancing facilities to help attract and retain talent – are smaller estates with more attractive spaces the key to solving the challenge and what is the FM role in supporting hybrid workers?


While many see the ‘hybrid challenge’ as the three-day work week and therefore a simple question of under-utilisation, we are seeing a multitude of factors that contribute to the challenge of these new ways of working and how FMs, tenants and landlords are responding.

Tenants are looking to attract and retain best in class talent, which in turn means that landlords are having to adapt to the changing demands of their occupiers. Many tenants are looking at the potential for better collaboration and workplace technologies, prioritising ESG and sustainability within their workplace, as well as enhanced end of trip facilities, gyms, bike storage, restaurants and so on.

Younger talent is more interested in social value and environmental impact, and with a building being a major part of a company’s CO2 output, our role in M&E has shifted in focus towards ensuring we maintain the sustainability accreditations (e.g. BREEAM, Well, Nabers, etc.) that the building has earned. In turn, this has seen a change in the types of engineer we are utilising, with Energy Managers, Reliability Managers and Warranty Managers becoming key parts of the delivery team.

Pump vibration monitoring, water monitoring, CO2 and people movement analysis, intelligent AHU and lighting functionality enable FMs to provide tenants with a first-class experience by predicting and fast-fixing failures before they happen.

An additional ‘benefit’ of the three-day work week for FMs is the ability to adapt our service model based on building usage. Previously expensive out-of-hours maintenance tasks can now be performed in hours, at a discounted rate (on a Friday for example).

It’s not just smaller estates that are having to adapt to help attract and retain talent. Within our portfolio of larger buildings that we manage across London we are delivering a range of projects aimed at enhancing the facilities, ensuring they remain competitive and comparable with those that are just opening. Spaces are being used very differently and our project management teams work both on directly visible changes, such as layouts and new fit-outs, as well as adapting and redesigning older plant equipment behind the scenes to support those spaces. The M&E services we provide at Tower 42 (nearly 45 years since construction) include a range of project services which are not required at more modern buildings like the Scalpel and 40 Leadenhall, yet the outcomes required by the landlord are the same.

Smaller estates are not necessarily the key to solving the question – better maintained estates with intelligent and sustainable facilities combined with a comfortable and environmentally friendly space will ensure talent retention, and it is the FM role that is the silent hero in the background. 


Over the years, including those pre-pandemic, flexible working arrangements have been proven to improve employee satisfaction, reduce attrition, increase attraction (from a geographically wider resource pool), enhance wellbeing and performance, strengthen business resilience and often reduce property costs.

The key term is “flexible,” meaning offering choice over work hours and location. Offering flexible working accompanied by edicts on the number of days and set times in the office lacks true flexibility and choice. It is important to consider both personal and organisational factors to determine a mutually beneficial arrangement – a challenge to all organisations.

My recent research* indicates that preference for spending time in the office depends on a host of factors such as leadership, organisational culture, tenure in the current role, family circumstances, personality and remuneration. However, I am not an advocate of full remote working – a balance of time in and out of the office is required. My research indicates that time in the office facilitates connection, socialising and teamwork, a sense of belonging and being part of the corporate culture, career development, and leadership and mentoring. The office clearly plays an important role in the long-term success of an organisation and individuals. For example, while working from home facilitates short-term productivity, like deliverables without distraction, it is not so optimal for long-term productivity, such as creating new products and services through innovation and collaboration. Therefore, regular time spent in the office with colleagues is highly recommended.

From an organisational and statistical point of view, it is likely to average two to three days. If that is the case, then it makes both economic and environmental sense to implement agile/activity-based working environments where team members share clusters of (fewer) desks assigned to the team rather than to individuals. This in turn allows the FM to convert a proportion of desks to essential alternative work-settings, like social and collaboration spaces and focus pods, making the office more attractive, and potentially release or sub-let a portion of the office space. However, be warned, some employees struggle with unallocated desking and it may discourage them from visiting the office, so good leadership and transition management is required, which the FM can coordinate.

*Oseland N A & Raw G J (2024) The Enticing Workplace: Attracting People Back to the Office, WPU-OP-04. Workplace Unlimited Occasional Paper.

About Sarah OBeirne

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