MANY COMPANIES’ return-to-office plans may have been delayed due to the emergence of the infectious Omicron variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

However, Cushman & Wakefield said companies still need to prepare for the eventual return of employees to the office and adopt more flexible working practices as the pandemic continues.

In its Asia Pacific Office Fit-out Cost Guide, the commercial real estate services firm noted that employee desire to work flexibly is lower in Asia-Pacific markets than in the United States and Europe.

“While fit-out typologies are changing globally, providing more collaborative spaces, the shift in Asia Pacific is likely to be more muted. With a greater proportion of employees spending more time in the office, there is more demand for space for focused work in the region,” Cushman & Wakefield said.

Companies are looking to build an ideal hybrid office, which would meet the demands of the flexible workforce.

Cushman & Wakefield also noted employees want greater workplace flexibility, while employers are looking to maintain corporate culture.

“High quality buildings that provide the highest quality health and wellbeing credentials are mandatory, as is the need for occupiers to provide employees with seamlessly integrated technology solutions for both onsite and offsite working. The application of thoughtful design and fit-out standards is crucial in order to reflect the role and purpose of the office which is all about experience, engagement, collaboration, culture and wellbeing,” it said.

Occupiers and investors are now putting greater emphasis on environment, social and governance (ESG) in their real estate footprint.

“Occupiers are increasingly seeking green and wellness certifications for their projects… Project managers play a pivotal role here by exposing clients to the latest workplace design strategies and assisting the integration of ESG principles into their workplace,” Cushman & Wakefield said.

According to the report, Japanese cities Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya have the highest average fit-out cost in the Asia-Pacific region at $166, $161 and $151 per square meter (sq.m.).

Auckland in New Zealand came in fourth with $139 per sq.m., while Hong Kong came in fifth with $138 per sq.m.

In Manila, the average fit-out cost is $87 per sq.m., slightly more expensive than Bangkok ($85 per sq.m.) and Kuala Lumpur ($83 per sq.m.). Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offer much-lower fit-out costs at $63 and $61 per sq.m., respectively.

Jakarta in Indonesia offers the lowest average fit-out cost at $56 per sq.m.