Decoding the Return-to-Office Puzzle in Switzerland

Unveiling Employer Sentiments and Expectations in JLL’s Return to the Office Survey for Switzerland

February 15, 2024
  • Camille Mourier
  • Edwin Schwarzenberger
  • Daniel Stocker

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, the predominant norm across most industries was to work exclusively from the company's physical office. The pandemic has necessitated and facilitated the widespread adoption of remote work and the acceptance of home office arrangements. Meanwhile many institutions across all sectors are reevaluating the balance between office and home office. JLL has therefore conducted a survey of Swiss companies/institutions to gain insights into how they are dealing with new workplace concepts and whether this could have an impact on future demand for office space.

The return to the office is spreading throughout the world, but with varying degrees of intensity and methods. While American companies resort to drastic measures to force their employees back into the office, threatening them with dismissal, most Swiss companies are more conciliatory. Office occupancy in Switzerland is higher than in international comparison.

A smooth Swiss implementation…

The trend in Switzerland is for a 3-day office working week, with the flexibility of choosing home office days. Office presence will not become an annual objective in most companies.

Swiss companies are confident about the future and plan to grow over the next two years. However, this growth in the number of employees does not necessarily lead to a need for additional office space. In fact, while 64% of companies anticipate growth in the number of employees, only 16% anticipate a need for additional office space. This optimisation of space will probably be made possible by desk sharing.

… which is why the impact on the office market is likely to remain manageable

Only 9% do not allow home office on specific days (e.g. not on Fridays) and 26% ask their employees to come to office on the same day(s). This implies that 74% offer full flexibility. Also 67% replied that their employees are free to choose their home office day(s). This flexibility limits the potential of space savings. Only 17% of the participants mentioned “Save office space / costs” as a reason for home office allowance. Although there is a certain potential for cost savings with space reductions, it’s limited without flexibility restrictions and stronger policies. Current hybrid strategies make it difficult for organizations to optimize office utilization and footprint. Implementation at Swiss companies is much gentler and less drastic than observed in other countries.

A few more selected results from the survey:

  • When two thirds of the surveyed companies have offered every employee its own workplace in 2019, only 27% consider to do so in the future.
  • The most important reasons for encouraging employees to work from the office is face-to-face collaboration. It may come as a surprise that potential productivity gains or the possibility of saving office space and costs are not so more important in Switzerland.
  • 73% of the companies surveyed will accept (at least) two home office days.
  • When smaller firms tend to keep their office footprint, companies with an office footprint of >3,000 m2 show a higher willingness to change their office space footprint.

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