The Modern Workplace: Balancing Employee Needs, Operational Efficiency

As return-to-office mandates gain momentum, new research from Eptura highlights the need for data-based decisions.

Office occupancy is top of mind for many CEOs, according to a new report from Eptura: 74% of operational leaders are reporting to their CEOs on occupancy metrics at least quarterly; 40% are reporting to their CEOs monthly.1 The Q3 Workplace Index analyzes building use, asset data, and behavioral insights to provide a comprehensive view of the rapidly changing modern workplace.

Return-to-office mandates have gained momentum in 2023, particularly post Labor Day, according to Eptura. Media coverage of these mandates often highlights a heated debate between executives and employees about what the right return-to-office strategy looks like.

When leaders were asked what metrics their organization uses to measure the performance of the workplace, Eptura’s research found:

Modern Workplace
(Source: Adobe Stock / ty, Generated with AI)
  • 27% are measuring space utilization
  • 24% consider employee feedback
  • 21% look at employee attendance rates
  • 17% evaluate cost savings
  • 11% review employee retention

“The reality is there isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy and CEO motivations for these mandates can vary from issues of productivity to generating opportunities for in-person mentorship and team building,” said Brandon Holden, CEO of Eptura. “It is clear CEOs need to have access to the right mix of data on workspace usage, employee behavioral patterns, and feedback to decide the strategy that will best meet employee needs as well as business goals.”

What Do Employees Want?

When asked what would make them want to use their workplace more, the top three most selected responses were:

  • More social areas such as cafes and outdoor spaces at 45%
  • Better technology like collaboration and scheduling software at 38%
  • More recreational areas like pool tables and table football at 34%2

What would make you want to use your workplace more?

Modern Workplace
Click image to enlarge. (Source: Eptura, Q3 Workplace Index)

This presents an interesting balance of items that would create more opportunities for team bonding and socialization, while also increasing productivity with the right technology to power collaboration. Given that roughly one-third of all space bookings are unplanned, focusing on these preferences will help mitigate some of the challenges of working in a hybrid office environment and attract more employees into the workplace.

U.S. Metros: Returning To The Office At Varying Rates

While return-to-office mandates are gaining momentum across the country, some employees in major metros are headed back in-person faster than others. Year-over-year, Eptura’s sample of U.S. metropolitan city desk bookings shows:

  • Dallas desk bookings grew 72% from Q3 2022 to Q3 2023
  • New York City desk bookings grew 58% from Q3 2022 to Q3 2023
  • Chicago desk bookings grew 52% from Q3 2022 to Q3 2023
  • San Francisco desk bookings grew 26% from Q3 2022 to Q3 202333

Automation Can Reduce Energy Consumption, Costs

While CEOs want to see employees return to the office in some capacity, they are also asking operational leaders to reduce costs. Automation can offer facility teams improved service management and cost control within their buildings. This becomes particularly important when office occupancy patterns are less predictable. Automation can be used not only for reducing labor costs but also for determining when to adjust service requirements.

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Survey results indicate that many organizations are actively adopting automation to enhance efficiency. When asked what facilities automation was enabled in their workplace, operational leaders responded with:

  • Lighting control to reduce energy consumption (87%)
  • Security systems to monitor and control access (83%)
  • HVAC systems to monitor temperatures and reduce energy costs (83%)
  • Fire and life safety systems to detect and respond to emergencies (74%)4

Although most organizations already use automation in some capacity, there are still plenty of untapped opportunities. For instance, only 11% of organizations automate cleaning systems to detect daily usage and reduce cost.5


1 Eptura 2023 Workplace Index Q3, Value creation and cost control, 37.
2 Eptura 2023 Workplace Index Q3, Value creation and cost control, 39.
3 Eptura 2023 Workplace Index Q3, Freedom and connection, 80-81.
4 Eptura 2023 Workplace Index Q3, Value creation and cost control, 45.
5 Eptura 2023 Workplace Index Q3, Value creation and cost control, 45.

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