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ESG compliant workspaces fuel talent attraction

A Colliers expert tells occupiers to put ESG at the forefront when assessing location strategies.

Occupiers in Hong Kong are focusing on higher-quality buildings that are environmental, social, and governance (ESG)-compliant not only to abide by regulations, but also to attract talents.

In an interview with Hong Kong Business, Abhishek Bajpai, managing director for Asia Occupier Services at Colliers, said talents in the city are choosing companies that “walk the talk” when it comes to ESG.

“ESG, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are becoming very critical for the workforce of today. A lot of people are now asking the questions of ‘show me the proof that you’re living your ESG policies’,” Bajpai said.

This is why occupiers must put ESG at the forefront when assessing and reviewing their location strategies, he said.

He added that incorporating ESG elements to an office will be more costly than choosing a location that is already compliant.

When choosing the location, Bajpai said it’s also important for companies to take into consideration where their employees and customers are.

Employee engagement

Apart from being ESG-compliant, a post-pandemic workspace must also be a place that allows for more employee engagement, said Bajpai.

“Companies that are attracting talent in today’s talent shortage are the ones that are heavily focused on engaging with the workforce and walking the talk on ESG and DE&I,” said the expert. 

With regard to collaboration spaces, they have become a lot more important in post-pandemic offices.

“Workers don’t really want to go to the office to sit in a conference room and be on conference calls; they can do that from home,” Bajpai said.

With hybrid work likely to become the norm, the office should offer an environment conducive to effective teamwork and in-person collaboration.

More importantly, Bajpai said companies must set up a strategy that’s bespoke to them – specifically designed for their unique needs.

“One size fits all’ is not an approach that works here,” he said. “You have to do what is right for your organisation, for which industry or market you’re in.”

The strategy should ensure that the workspace is designed based also on the company’s brand, so certain questions should be raised.

“Ask whether your office is living your brand,” said Bajpai. “Is it fit for its purpose? Is it fit for the kind of talent that you're trying to attract? From a location and portfolio strategy point of view, you’ve got to get this right.”

To enable better hybrid working, he also advised companies to incorporate technologies that make it “more comfortable and easier” for people not only to work from the office but also from home.

In its Global Occupier Outlook, Colliers gave three recommendations for companies. The first of which is to “define, implement and communicate occupancy policies.”

“Being explicit about the principles and goals that underpin the company’s approach to hybrid and remote working, and how and when employees are expected to spend more time at dedicated locations, can reduce confusion and anxiety among staff and also give the organisation a better basis on which to make plans,” Colliers reported.

It also recommended that companies entice, and not order, people back to the office.

“Even if a number of mandatory in-office days per week may be justified for business reasons, the onus is on organisations to create environments where people want to be, because they offer a strong platform for collaboration, learning and yes, even fun,” Colliers said.

Lastly, when choosing spaces, Colliers told occupiers to look at non-traditional leases and office arrangements to build resiliency.

“Incorporating more flexible space, as well as shorter duration or conditional leases, into the portfolio can improve organisational alignment with hybrid work strategies, and create the ability to adjust real estate space and spend in line with fast-changing economic conditions,” Colliers said.

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