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Asia Pacific leads global demand for office space even as adoption of hybrid working gradually overcomes cultural obstacles

Jess Freeman • 28/06/2022

Cushman & Wakefield’s new report shows demand for office space more than offsets the impact of hybrid working as it is adopted at varying rates across the region.


Hybrid working may be here to stay, but the rate at which countries in Asia Pacific are adopting flexible working practices varies greatly, according to a new workplace report.

Cushman & Wakefield’s report, Asia Pacific Office of the Future Revisited, said that while employees generally wanted greater workplace flexibility post-pandemic, cultural expectations around presenteeism, infrastructure deficiencies like unreliable internet, and a lack of space to work in residential premises are among the reasons the transition to hybrid work is progressing more gradually in some markets.

Across Asia Pacific, Australia reported the greatest desire for flexible working – even if only one day per week – at 87 percent of office-based employees. Mainland China (54 percent) and India (42 percent) had the least desire for some form of flexible working. In contrast, almost 90 percent of office-based employees in the United States desired at least one day per week out of the office.

“The desire to work flexibly and the speed of adopting flexible work practices varies considerably between markets. Variation can also be observed generationally, as well as by seniority, by department and between companies,” said Head of Insight & Analysis, Asia Pacific, Dr. Dominic Brown.

Trust between managers and employees is also crucial; Cushman & Wakefield research shows Asia Pacific has the lowest level of managerial trust, which further cements presenteeism, said Asia Pacific Total Workplace Lead Carol Wong. “Markets less familiar with flexible working are likely to need greater assistance with change management. This needs to start with building trust between managers and team members alongside a shift to identifying new measures of individual and team success,” said Ms. Wong.

Creation of office-based jobs strongest in the world

Generating more office-based jobs than other regions, Asia Pacific is expected to account for 23 million jobs – more than 75 percent – of the office-based jobs forecast to be generated globally between 2020 and 2030.

While Mainland China and India account for the greatest share – 50 percent and 26 percent respectively – the long-term forecast for the region overall remains favourable and intact, despite near-term challenges as countries emerge from the pandemic-related difficulties of the past two years, said Dr. Brown.

“The office demand growth drivers in many Asia Pacific markets are so strong that they will more than offset the impacts of flexible working,” he said.

The impact of Generation Z

The uptake of hybrid working in Asia Pacific is likely to accelerate as Generation Z – those born between 1997 and 2012 – accounts for a larger percentage of the working-age population.

Generation Z currently accounts for only 13 percent of the working-age population, or around 330 million people. By 2026 this figure will be almost 25 percent (655 million) and, by 2030, Generation Z will number nearly 1 billion people and account for more than one-third of all 20- to 64-year-olds.

Almost two-thirds of Generation Z report wanting some form of flexible working.

“The purpose of the office is evolving as the war for talent and hybrid work shape the future of workplace,” Ms. Wong said. “The clock has started ticking on workplace transformation within the region. Corporate employers are well advised to begin testing and piloting now to meet the needs of their current and future workforce. Those corporate occupiers who start piloting new working models earlier stand to reap the benefits through greater talent attraction, retention and engagement.”

Dr. Brown agrees. “Generation Z is the first generation of digital natives. They expect a seamless connection between the physical and the digital, which is also what allows hybrid working to flourish,” said Dr. Brown. “This is the generation that employers need to attract.”

According to Tim Molchanoff, Head of Office Leasing - Australia & New Zealand,  before the pandemic, most workplaces provided an allocated desk for all their staff and hot desking or Activity-Based Working (ABW) was an emerging trend. 

“Now that “working from home” is here to stay, our research indicates that a majority of tenants are considering (or already have) ABW as a permanent solution to manage lower occupancy rates” he said.

The number of desks provided is generally based on the average number of employees in the office each day. For example, with allocated desks, a daily occupancy rate of 100% was normally assumed. For 100 staff, 100 desks would be provided.

However, at 80% occupancy, only 80 desks are required. The proportion of staff-to-desks is referred to as the occupancy rate (OR). This is a key metric for the management of an “agile” or Activity Based Workplace (ABW).

Another factor with an impact on occupancy rates and space demand is a redistribution of space from individual workspace to shared amenities and collaborative space. This change is expected to offset some of the long-term reduction in space caused by working from home.

The key drivers of this shift in space distribution are workplace experience and staff engagement. This trend has been emerging for several years as a feature of ABW offices and has been accelerated by the pandemic.

Mr Molchanoff believes that reduced time in the office has a negative impact on staff engagement that can be mitigated by a more interactive and inclusive workplace experience. 

“A better-quality workplace and more flexibility about where and when to work gives employers a competitive advantage to attract and retain staff” he said.

Click here to download Asia Pacific Office of the Future Revisited.

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