As macro factors impact fit-out costs, what’s the cost of doing nothing?

Office polarisation and employee expectations begin to influence workplace design

November 18, 2022
  • Victoria Shreeves

Office designs are evolving. Flexibility and choice will be key elements of future workspaces, as will prioritising technology, health and wellness in the office and the sustainability of the space. These big themes have broad implications for the future of offices and these new priorities will have a significant impact on costs.

Many organisations are grappling with these changes against a challenging macroeconomic climate which has seen the construction industry face multiple headwinds. While higher costs have not dented demand, longer lead times, material shortages, price inflation, labour shortages and increasing import prices are putting upward pressure on budgets.

With inflation forecast to remain high through 2023, organisations may be tempted to delay refurbishment and fit-out plans. But what is the cost of doing nothing?

Best-in-class office polarisation takes hold

A clear flight to quality is emerging as more companies in EMEA choose Grade A offices for their workforces. Office space that aligns with company sustainability targets, that supports the physical and mental health and wellbeing of their staff, and supports the digital infrastructure, is now clearly held in higher esteem. According to our research, 74% of organisations are likely to pay a premium for spaces with leading sustainability and green credentials. This is mirrored by employee expectations, as 77% of employees will increasingly expect the workplace to have a positive impact on the environment.

Employee expectations

Many employees have warmed to flexible working arrangements but, even with incentives, companies face an uphill struggle to bring workers back to the office. With employees’ expectations of the office evolving, organisations must also ensure the quality and type of office fit-out provides similar utility to their homes in terms of the quality of life. According to JLL’s recent Worker Preferences Barometer, 60% of employees agree that the office will remain central to their working life in the long-term.

One major way to gain a competitive edge is through high-quality, people-first workplaces that are in tune with hybrid working. In JLL’s recent Future of Work Survey 2022, 77% of organisations agree that offering hybrid working will be critical to attract and retain talent.


Fit-out costs range widely from market-to-market across the EMEA region. Some markets may look attractive due to lower CAPEX, but there are other OPEX factors to consider that fit-out costs don’t include – inflation rates, energy costs, cost of living and commute times. With rising energy costs, there is no better time to invest in technology and sustainability solutions to fully optimise long term cost savings.

  • A hybrid office design will generally cost more due to custom design and heightened technology needs – construction costs are higher, as less of the footprint is given to simple open spaces, but the right balance will depend on each company’s requirements.

  • There are higher upfront costs and CAPEX required to achieve sustainability certifications, but the efficiency gains realised in the process of sustainability certification will usually result in lower operating expenditure and running costs over time. A sustainability-focused fit-out is critical to reaching goals, while at the same time accruing other benefits of operational efficiency.

  • Measuring health and wellness ROI is difficult to quantify – the cost depends on the level of certification sought but the effectiveness should be visible in positive staff retention, health and engagement, as well as in attracting the best talent.

  • Technology is a critical enabler to hybrid working – employees expect a seamless technology experience wherever they work. The shift toward higher technology spending is a broader, longer-term trend across all office fit-out projects.

To find out more about EMEA office fit-out costs, including a deeper look at 31 cities across 25 markets, download JLL’s latest EMEA Fit-Out Cost Guide