Despite highly specific and complex real estate needs, the life sciences sector is not immune to the new employee expectations manifesting in all industries. Whether they’re scientists or bankers, today’s knowledge workers demand more flexible work models, and they want to feel good about the organizations they serve in terms of both environmental and social principles.
Recent research shows life sciences executives are tuning in to these emerging employee needs. JLL’s Future of Work Survey, which included roughly 100 survey responses from those in the healthcare and life sciences industries, reveals that industry leaders expect hybrid to become the dominant model and are looking across their real estate portfolios for fresh opportunity to fuel flexible, collaborative work; sustainability; diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI); and well-being.
Through the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations proved they could pivot quickly to support employees in a changing world. Now, you have a powerful new opportunity to flex those adaptability muscles once more — but this time with more control.
To help shape the future of work for the better in your own organization, build your real estate strategy around the following top trends in life sciences real estate:
- Hybrid work is here to stay.
- It’s time for more open, collaborative workspace.
- Environmental and social outcomes matter more than ever.
- The future of work is inclusive and human.
The hybrid reality is not only becoming the norm; it’s becoming non-negotiable in many companies. According to the JLL’s survey almost a quarter of life sciences leaders believe that offering remote and/or hybrid work options will be critical in attracting and retaining talent.
Despite highly specific and complex real estate needs, the life sciences sector is not immune to the new employee expectations manifesting in all industries. By 2025, roughly 41 percent say their organizations will make remote working a permanent offering for all employees, and 30 percent plan to take an “employee-choice” approach to the question of hybrid work — compared with 7 percent pre-pandemic.
Given so much of life sciences work does need to happen in person, in labs and manufacturing facilities, these responses are clear indicators of an industry embracing flexibility as best it can.
What can your team do about it? Rethink your workplace model and, in turn, the size, shape and functionality of your real estate footprint. Operationalizing hybrid successfully means aligning space, technology, and HR strategy within one cohesive, fit-for-purpose portfolio. This could include ramping up the experiential quality of the space to ensure employees actually enjoy their in-person time. It may also include reallocating space and increasing the proportion of flexible space to accommodate more dynamic working patterns.
Trend #2: It’s time for more open, collaborative workspace.
Scientific innovation thrives on collaboration. But in an industry known for its highly regulated processes and procedures, it’s often been difficult to avoid a culture of silos — until now.
To fuel teamwork and peer-to-peer learning, many life sciences companies are working to transform the workspaces they offer into more open, dynamic and experiential environments. Life scientists desire adjacency to one another, even in a lab space.
More than half (60 percent) of life sciences respondents say they plan to do away with dedicated desk space in favor of open and collaborative office spaces. By curating a mix of flexible physical and digital work environments, they can spark connectivity and creativity as well as streamline communication and elevate the employee experience as a whole.
Trend #3: Environment and social outcomes matter more than ever.
Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations are increasingly important across all industries, including the life sciences sector — because employees are increasingly demanding it. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents say their employees will increasingly expect the workplace to have a positive impact on the environment.
Motivated at least in part by employee support, many life sciences companies are taking steps to reduce their environmental footprint, promote social responsibility, and ensure good governance practices. For example, some organizations are investing in renewable energy and reducing their operational and embodied carbon to mitigate climate impact, while others are implementing green building design and reducing water usage and waste.
The hybrid reality is not only becoming the norm; it’s becoming non-negotiable in many companies. According to JLL research, the number of life sciences leaders prepared to pay a ‘green premium’ — higher rates to occupy more sustainable spaces — is likely to increase rapidly over the next three years.
Companies are also focusing on social responsibility by promoting diversity and inclusion and supporting charitable organizations and community groups. Whatever your corporate ESG goals may be, real estate is a powerful vehicle for delivering on the positive impacts employees and customers alike increasingly want to see.
Trend #4: The future of work is inclusive and human.
By and large, today’s employees crave spaces where diversity, inclusion, and employee well-being are all high on the agenda.
Close to three quarters (71 percent) of respondents say their employees will increasingly expect their workplace to have a positive impact on society, including increased social value and community engagement. And more than half (53 percent) of life sciences decision-makers report they are accelerating investment into diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in their own organizations — compared with 46 percent globally.
At the same time, life sciences leaders are more focused on employee well-being than their peers in other sectors, with 67 percent of respondents considering improving workforce resilience to be a key strategic objective.
Overall, we are seeing the life sciences sector delivering more on well-being from the employee perspective as compared to other industries. In fact, forward-looking organizations are dialing in on holistic well-being strategies that combine social, physical, and mental well-being. Today’s employees crave spaces where diversity, inclusion, and employee well-being are all high on the agenda.
- Social: Workplaces that enable collaboration and socialization help give people a sense of purpose and belonging.
- Physical: Offering healthy spaces with clean indoor air and thoughtful amenities supports physical activity, nutrition, and recovery.
- Mental: Organizing work so that people feel empowered to do their best work contributes to their sense of accomplishment — and performance.
The Human-First Future of Work Is in Your Hands.
From hybrid working models and open space design to ESG and well-being initiatives, the future of work is, above all, human.
The period from 2022 to 2025 represents a crucial window of opportunity for life sciences and other organizations to redefine their workplace strategies for the better. The disruptive forces of the last few years have made us collectively stronger, better equipped to forge a bright new future amid continuing uncertainty. Now is the time to reset and think anew about your organization’s path to the future of work.
This critical decision moment requires connected thinking about work, workforce, workplace, and portfolio. By understanding the role real estate can play, we can together help shape a future where flexible working patterns and responsible social and environmental behaviors are the norm — and people, profits, and planet alike all reap the benefits. Scientific innovation doesn’t stop. Nor should the real estate strategy behind it.