Local Response | Evolving Workforces

Smart parcel lockers: a benefit for employees returning to the office?

May 10, 2023 6 Minute Read

By Emily Bastable Pol Marfa Miro


Employees are demanding more flexibility and convenience regarding when and where they work, with only 20% of respondents of CBRE’s Global Live-Work-Shop survey expressing the will to work full time from the office in the future. There are several elements driving this; some larger like improving work-life balance, but many smaller contributors combine to drive the overall preferences. And for employers wanting to entice workers back to the office, it may be worth considering all factors that may tip the balance.

For example, the increase in online shopping during COVID has led to some sustained changes in behaviour, with consumers increasingly conscious of the need to attain online deliveries now that they are no longer working from home full-time. For those in a hybrid working model, perhaps the ability to easily access parcels at work could be a pull towards the office.

44% of respondents to CBRE’s Global Live-Work-Shop survey reported that since the onset of the pandemic, the ability to accommodate food and parcel delivery has become more important in choosing a home (Figure 1). This is even more relevant to online shopping enthusiasts, young respondents, and hybrid workers - because they are more likely to seek efficiencies as they are not always at home to receive parcels (Figure 2). It seems clear that the increasing appetite to buy online and trends towards hybrid working are here to stay, so there is a need to accommodate what consumers and employees are demanding: flexibility and convenience.

Figures 1 and 2: Percentage of respondents that give a higher importance to having the ability to accommodate food and parcels when choosing a new home

Source: CBRE Global Live-Work-Shop Report, 2023

Parcel collection via concierge services is a tried concept within residential developments but has some downsides: it requires adequate space allocation and design, as well as human resource (and therefore increased service charges). Parcel lockers are one potential solution to the issue, however, fitting parcel lockers or larger post boxes within existing residential developments is sometimes not possible, and when it is, it can be space intensive. Those issues are particularly constraining in small, urban flats; a key location where our survey has highlighted that most online enthusiasts live.

There are limits to use in residential buildings, but office units could perhaps offer the space to install parcel lockers as an amenity for employees. Data from Parcel Monitor (Figure 3) already shows an increase in demand – the percentage of online purchases delivered to non-store collection points in Europe has grown, particularly since the end of most lockdowns in 2022.

Figure 3: Share of online purchases delivered to non-store collection points (European markets)

Source: Parcel Monitor, 2023

There could be several advantages in terms of convenience for office and hybrid workers if collection points were moved closer to where consumers work, either in the entry hall of the office building or somewhere more discreet. Globally, 68% of hybrid workers are attaching more importance to the quality of their work environment than pre-pandemic, therefore increased amenity has the potential to encourage office attendance.

For employers and office landlords, installing smart lockers would be seen as a cost-effective improvement in office amenities, particularly if partnering with e-commerce players looking to increase the number of parcel lockers. If delivery companies were able to obtain free access from the street, this has the capacity to limit workload for office receptionists and post rooms compared to resource-intensive concierge services.

The benefits for retailers and logistics operators are also clear: as well as a physical advertisement play, emphasis on parcel lockers could allow deliveries to be combined and the risk of failed delivery would be minimised – more efficient delivery will allow for reduced costs and more sustainable urban logistics operations.

Despite acknowledging that it might not be a one-for-all solution, there are a number of widely discussed benefits to smart parcel lockers installed in offices. Fundamentally, it is clear that the requirements of the end-consumer are feeding into occupiers’ building selection and fuelling the flight to quality, best in class offices. As a result, improving in-office delivery systems with the employee in mind offers a draw towards in-office working, whilst also providing workforce talent with the amenity that’s desired to attract and retain their abilities.

Explore our full findings in the Global Live-Work-Shop report.