Is your office location costing you talent?

Kelly Hamer, EMEA Director Location Advisory Lead at JLL, gives her views in the latest of our One Voice series articles

The move to hybrid and remote working is changing the size and shape of offices – but could it be altering their location too? How long people are willing to travel and how they want to travel is shifting.

In the UK, Government statistics show that bus journeys are down by 27% and rail journeys remain 24% lower than pre COVID-19 levels. Overall, European urban public transport use is estimated to have settled at some 10-15% less than pre-pandemic levels. Workers are also more concerned about travel time and emissions impact. A difficult commute that doesn’t fit with their lifestyle or values, can mean employees come in less frequently - resulting in a loss of the buzz in the office.

On the other hand, the right location increases the attractiveness of your organisation to potential employees. This in turn, may boost productivity and reduce recruitment costs, thanks to lower staff turnover.

Whether your office location is costing you talent depends on four critical factors:

  • Connectivity
    Connectivity has always been important – not only the number of public transport links, but route frequency, which in many areas hasn’t fully recovered despite the lifting of Covid restrictions. When conducting location analysis for clients, we look at ease of access for employees and client offices. Hybrid working has allowed employers to recruit from a wider geographical talent pool, so employees might consider less frequent and longer travel times.
  • Affordability
    Affordability of transport to a particular location will be increasingly important to employees given the challenging economic climate. In Germany, we’ve recently seen the introduction of a reduced price public transport ticket, valid on buses, trains and trams. Costing €49 a month, it is designed to ease the financial burden of commuting while helping reduce emissions.
  • Sustainability
    Since the pandemic, we’ve also seen both individuals and corporates prioritise sustainability and wellbeing. In relation to mobility, that means a good location is ideally accessible by active travel, such as cycling and walking, or equipped for cleaner transport with cycle racks or charging points for electric vehicles. Businesses should also consider cities that are proactively encouraging healthy lifestyles and alternative modes of transport with extensive cycle path networks, low emissions zones and pedestrian friendly spaces. Cities such as Copenhagen in Denmark and Bremen in Germany for example, have extensive cycling infrastructures, low bike theft and regular ‘no-car’ days.
  • Future-fit
    Finally, good locations are ones which are ready for the future. Part of that depends on how local authorities are investing in transport. Cardiff, for example, is grappling with congestion and air pollution but has launched a £1 billion urban mobility program to improve its transport network.
Corporate policies contribute to accessibility

How much priority is given to these factors depend on a company’s way of thinking. For example, forward thinking companies are more likely to develop company policies that encourage and support more sustainable commuting in their workforce.

Cycle-to-work schemes, car-share programmes and discounts towards electric vehicle purchasing – even towel availability for cyclists or runners – can support people’s commuting preferences. Large companies that are considered anchor tenants might look to work with local authorities and communities to establish a sustainable travel plan including initiatives such as transport stops or routes to shuttle employees in.

After all, the commute is your first journey of the day. Making it easy and convenient contributes to a positive employee experience, leading to greater productivity, while providing the flexibility that workers increasingly expect.

Location planning for the future

When acquiring a new site, businesses should ideally begin business location strategy at least 18 months to two years out. It helps if they can work with key stakeholders in the business to understand their existing and desired future workforce so we can establish where the next generations of talent will want to be.

The next step is to analyse a number of factors such as access to talent, the attractiveness of the operating environment (which includes the connectivity and mobility elements), cost and risk, to help identify locations that fit the business needs - both now and in the future.

As new ways of working evolve, the patterns of how we live, and work are still in flux. Now is the time for businesses and local governments to collaborate on improving the appeal of locations by making them - and the commute - more accessible and enjoyable.

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