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May 11, 2021

How to Run a Stay-Go Analysis for Your Real Estate Portfolio

This piece was built in collaboration with  JLL, particularly  Katie Rodrigues, Senior Vice President of Consulting in Workplace Strategy & Change Management.

With teams settling into remote work and office spaces waiting to be revisited, a large question looms for business leaders: how will a reimagined workforce impact our workplace experience and real estate portfolio in coming years? 

The pandemic has underscored the fact that every business has unique needs, culture, and goals. The nature of your future work and company profile should leave you questioning your long term real estate strategy. Will you return to your old office, or alter it to accommodate hybrid work? Or will you reshape the workplace entirely and adopt an “anywhere works” model

A  “stay-go” analysis has emerged as an exercise for business leaders to examine how strategic goals intersect with real estate options. This type of analysis is essential, yet the decision isn’t binary and there are no clear trends due to radical differences between businesses. It’s a company-specific decision that leaders need to weigh against various needs and visions.

Your uniqueness may land you somewhere on the spectrum between stay vs. go and office-centric vs. fully remote.  Regardless of your decisions, there’s a better real estate strategy that can be customized to you. In this blog, we will walk you through why stay-go analyses are a holistic tool for business leaders and how you can begin to evaluate real estate portfolios against business goals and — critically — the re-imagined success of people and culture.

Re-evaluating your office footprint

What is a stay-go analysis?

A stay-go analysis is a strategic exercise that generates a path forward from vision to action. In real estate, the goal of a stay-go analysis is for a business to create a plan for physical space that reflects an ideal future state. 

A stay-go analysis is fundamentally an evaluation of two corporate real estate options: 

  • “Stay”, a return to the office in full or in a hybrid way
  • “Go”, a departure from the physical workplace with a focus on remote operations

These options can seem impossible to tackle and difficult to isolate from other considerations regarding what’s best for your people, innovation, community and culture. In light of this, the question “stay or go?” must be tied to other questions like: 

The answers are complex and require a bit of looking into a crystal ball. It’s ok to take a position for the future and know that it’s going to change. Luckily, a stay-go exercise is meant to capture all the unique factors and considerations that may be in play for you.

So, how do you begin?

Stay-go analyses aim to be both qualitative and quantitative. They also are a mix of subjective feelings and objective truths. A good stay-go analysis might take stock of employee data and portfolio budgets, but also how things feel for your culture and leadership vision.

1) Lay out your future business strategy

Business strategy and the workplace are more intertwined than ever. Think of business strategy questions as the first elements of the blueprint of your restructured portfolio.

There are more drivers at play today than prior to the pandemic, and these can halt strategic planning. It’s important to start by asking a few simple questions regarding business strategy. Consider: 

  • What are the priorities for your business in the coming year(s)?
  • What are the unique drivers of success for your company? 
  • What’s your overarching talent or people strategy?
  • How do you want to be seen by your employees, competitors and clients in the coming months? 

Once you take stock of your answers, begin to assess them in terms of space. Do these goals depend on physical space, and how? If collaboration is your unique success driver and it’s suffered during the pandemic, then perhaps “going” isn’t as strong an option for you. A well-defined realm of work (physical and/or digital) starts with business goals and reflects culture and values in a way that drives strategic outcomes.

3) Map your three "Es" - efficiency, effectiveness and experience

Staying vs. going implies a two column list, with all the benefits of staying in one and the benefits of going in another. The reality is that your business won’t be squarely in one column. There will be unique financial and cultural benefits from each that apply to you.

Instead, think about triangulating among efficiency, effectiveness and experience with the right questions that incorporate your business strategy.

Real Estate Portfolio Analysis-1

Efficiency: For some business leaders, the pandemic presents an opportunity to slim down real estate costs. This is efficiency. You can first take stock of the financials: where can you gain financial efficiency by reducing or changing your office footprint? 

Effectiveness: Efficiency only truly benefits your business if there’s also effectiveness: what does an effective workplace look like to you? Does reducing space actually further your qualitative and quantitative goals, or should you shoulder the cost to gain something else? 

Here you can examine room utilization data and remote work metrics to measure the effectiveness of past and present setups. 

Experience: How do you want your employees to experience work? Or customers to experience your service or products? Is being in-person necessary for team culture and engagement to thrive? 

Here you can consider survey data, particularly longitudinal information, to measure experience across different settings and monitor culture health. 

Effectiveness and experience hint at how important your people and culture are. It’s critical to think beyond financial gains when it comes to space and tap into what works for your people and where you want to grow.

3) Most importantly: put people at the center of your decision-making

People are at the core of a stay-go analysis. You’re not deciding the future of a one-person office, but rather the future of hundreds, or even thousands, of people.

There are often discrepancies between what leaders perceive to be true versus what employees actually feel, especially around the topic of returning to the office — and those feelings are rapidly evolving. The only way you’ll be able to be certain about how a plan could suit your people and culture is to take the temperature early and often.

One way to take the pulse? You can gather data through surveys, asking questions to assess how employees are doing well remotely, and how they may be struggling. Getting a clear picture of employee sentiment (expectations, desire to return, attitudes towards getting work done) means knowing how and where people do their best work in your business.

This can have immense payoff: businesses that manage to find a balance between remote work and reimagined office spaces that foster culture and inspire employees will experience  better outcomes regarding engagement and satisfaction in the long term

What next?

Navigating the question “stay or go” can seem like a monumental task. But you’ll have to tackle it soon. Data shows that employees crave flexibility and choice going forward, so it’s likely you’ll have to create a plan for your hybrid workplace, and ensure it directly supports your unique culture and employees. 

A workplace consultant can help start the process. It can be hard to find the time to do this type of strategy while keeping day-to-day operations running smoothly; consultants work to ensure buy-in, support and understanding on your company level. Most importantly, they help you go from hypothetical questions to strategic plans in a reduced timeframe.

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