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Unlocking the Future of Work: Lessons from Retail and Hospitality to Transform the Workplace

As hybrid work models become increasingly prevalent, the landscape of traditional workplaces is undergoing a profound transformation.

Many companies are cautious about implementing strict mandates on returning to the office, fearing the loss of talent as they search for more flexible working solutions. Unfortunately, this lack of consistent guidance has resulted in irregular office attendance. Employees who do come to the office sometimes find themselves in sparsely populated spaces and, as a result, might be more hesitant to return. This decline in office attendance has had a ripple effect on surrounding business districts, leading to fewer options for dining, shopping and entertainment in the areas that have been hit the hardest.

While some companies struggle to strike the right balance, others, such as CBRE, are taking cues from the retail and hospitality industries to reimagine the office experience. Instead of forcing employees back with a heavy hand, CBRE aims to entice talent back to the office by creating a more engaging work environment. Drawing inspiration from retail and hospitality, CBRE expects to see emerging workplace trends such as aesthetically redefined workspacees, elevated services and amenities that prioritize wellness, and the integration of technology to lead the workplace transformation and push the boundaries of how work is performed.


In retail and hospitality ambiance and aesthetics play a crucial role. Employers are paying more attention to interior design, lighting and decor to create inviting and inspiring environments for employees. Comfortable furnishings, natural lighting, greenery and artwork that bring in the comforts of home contribute to a more “Resimercial,” inviting atmosphere that attracts employees.

Workplaces are also adopting flexible work-space designs that cater to diverse work styles. This includes open-plan layouts, focus offices, collaboration zones and quiet areas – each tailored to accommodate different ways in which an employee might need to work on a given day. With employees embracing hybrid work, companies that accurately define the value of their office and offer customized workspaces that give employees the tools and environment they need to reach their full potential will see the greatest return on investment.

Retail and hospitality have long recognized the importance of creating memorable experiences for customers, and workplaces are following suit. Just as retail stores have shifted over the last 10 years from transactional spaces to immersive brand experiences, offices are evolving into hubs of employer brand immersion. This shift reflects a growing emphasis on engaging employees through unique experiences that reinforce company values and foster a sense of belonging.


Just as hotels, resorts and high-end retail offer amenities to enhance the guest experience, workplaces will need to adapt to the changing workforce by providing amenities such as onsite cafes, fitness centers, lounges and recreational spaces. These amenities not only promote employee well-being but also create opportunities for socialization and relaxation during breaks, fostering a more enjoyable and inviting workplace environment. Some work- places are even implementing concierge services to help employees with tasks like scheduling meetings, coordinating travel arrangements, or arranging dry cleaning services.

Many employers and building owners have provided apps like CBRE’s innovative Host platform, that help employees manage their experience within their workplace. That can include reserving workstations and conference rooms, checking on which colleagues will be in the office on a given day, perusing the café’s lunch menu for the day, or even scheduling outside services like ride sharing or drycleaning pickup.

By providing personalized assistance, employers can alleviate some of the stress and logistical challenges employees may face, thereby allowing employees to be more productive and efficient with their time.


Technology plays a central role in transforming the workplace experience. Workplaces are adopting technology innovation to push customized notifications temployees, use real-time collaboration in video conferencing and increase accuracy of decision intelligence. From smart occupancy management systems to interactive collaboration tools, companies are integrating cutting-edge technology to enhance communication, productivity, and collaboration among employees. And by capturing insights on workspace utilization and employee engagement, companies can optimize office layouts and design for maximum efficiency and satisfaction.

With 90% of companies adopting hybrid work, occupiers are striving to define the value of the office. Top workplace trends observed by CBRE, regardless of industry, indicate an increased focus on investing in data to analyze patterns in employee behavior and apply that data to workplace strategy. This resembles the $200 billion consumer data industry that drives retail strategy. The business that learns how to truly capture these trends and transform how work is done is the one that will leapfrog ahead.


Recently, CBRE opened its new 21,485 square foot, technology-enabled office on the 8th floor of 2000 Avenue of the Stars at the Century Park complex. The new office is part of CBRE’s Workplace360 program which serves as a living example of the company’s “Future of Work” space standards, including innovative technology and a wider variety of collaborative spaces designed to support hybrid working. Since launching its Workplace360 program in 2013 in Downtown Los Angeles, CBRE has opened over 100 Workplace360 offices globally featuring a “free address” model with no assigned seating. This approach enhances collaboration and space efficiency, accommodating the flexible office attendance of hybrid work models.

The office design, led by the CBRE Design Collective, is inspired by LA’s rich history and scenic landscapes and integrates innovative technology throughout to supports hybrid collaboration and delivers seamless digital experiences. The conference space features an interactive whiteboard capable of simultaneous in-person and remote use. The office also has multiple digital displays – including a 135-inch DvLED media display – which help facilitate office and client events. Other technology elements include screen sharing and touchscreen functionality for interactive presentations.

The office offers different work environments, including bench workstations, focus pods and focus rooms, to cater to a range of personal work styles. The collaboration-geared areas feature open and enclosed rooms in all sizes and furniture layouts, as well as a large community space called “The Heart” with retractable walls for maximum flexibility.

This CBRE office serves as a practical example of how companies can adopt a similar approach to cater to the evolving workforce needs and enhance company culture by provid- ing a unique in-office experience.

As the future of work continues to evolve, leading organizations like CBRE are embracing these trends to transform how work is done. By investing in technology innovation, redefining the purpose of space, and prioritizing service and amenities, companies can create dynamic and flexible environments that support hybrid work models and empower employees to thrive.

Lew Horne is president of CBRE Greater LA Orange County & Inland Empire. Learn more at CBRE.com.

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