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Survey: Most People Really Want To Return To The Office

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on August 20, 2020
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We’ve all heard that working remotely is the new normal, but the majority of people still expect their organization to implement return to office plans at some point in the near future, according to a recent Gensler "return to office" survey.

Of course, employees’ preferences depend on many factors, including how productive they are able to be while working from home and how much support they have from their employer. Some jobs are much easier to do remotely compared to others as well.

Here’s a summary of the latest survey findings — including one industry that is especially eager for its return to office.

What are the findings of the return to office survey?

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, only 1 in 10 U.S. office workers regularly worked from home, according to the survey.

Of the 2,300 people who responded from mid-April to early May, only 12% said they wanted to work from home full time.

Seventy percent anticipate working in the office for the majority of their workweek. Another 18 percent said they would like to come into the office once or twice a week.

The percentage of people who wanted to return to the office for the majority of the week was higher among lawyers — 74 percent of whom said that they preferred working within an office environment compared to working from home.

Return-to-Work-Gensler

Source: Gensler

What do people miss most about the office environment?

The top reason most employees are return-to-office ready shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who is part of a strong team: it’s the people.

Fifty-four percent said they missed in-person meetings, socializing with their colleagues, and impromptu face-to-face interactions most of all.

Employees also ranked being part of a community, having access to technology, and having a greater ability to focus on their work as important reasons for a return to office.

For years now, research has indicated that younger employees in the workforce were behind the push for more flexible schedules. Surprisingly, results from Gensler's return to office survey seem to show that a fully remote working arrangement may actually be more of a challenge for the younger generations.

Millennial and Gen Z employees reported having a harder time avoiding distractions and difficulty with maintaining a good balance between personal and professional life at home, whereas a higher percentage of older workers said they found it easier to work from home.

Return-to-Work-missing-most

Source: Gensler

What do employees need to return to the office?

By now, most employees realize the return to office won't mean their company will be returning to business as usual.

Ultimately, after all this time working from their homes, people expect to have more freedom to choose where they work. That means more personal say in their physical environment, location, and surroundings.

With safety at the top of everyone's mind, your employees also expect to have a cleaner workstation and more distance between the workstations in the office.

They also want to see more types of touchless technology implemented throughout the workplace — including touchless technology for doors and light fixtures — to help reduce the number of shared surfaces they come into contact with when they are working in the office.

Cleaner air is also very important, with 31% of employees saying they would like their office to have an air purification system.

Return-to-work-needs

Source: Gensler

And as more employers consider flexible office space strategies like hot desking and desk hoteling, leaders and space planners need to understand that not all employees will be eager to embrace those types of work environments.

Nineteen percent of employees who responded to Gensler’s return to office survey said they wanted their employer to eliminate shared workstations.

Recommended: Read how to eliminate hot-desking anxiety with modern alternatives

Employers can address the understandable concerns around shared spaces by adopting new protocols. That includes sanitizing desks after each use and potentially allowing employees to reserve workspace for extended periods of time.

A global PwC survey of CFOs found 70% felt confident they could provide a safe working environment for employees by implementing safety measures, such as updating their office floor plans and creating stricter sanitization and workplace cleaning protocol.

How can technology help employees return to the office?

As Gensler’s return to office research showed, employees want to see a greater distance between workspaces, as well as an increase in the frequency of office cleaning.

Technology can help your organization accomplish this in a much more efficient, cost-effective manner. And these days, you need to be especially conscious of the time, cost, and resources spent doing so.

Space planning software that allows employers to easily adjust their floor plans for spatial distancing minimizes the spread of coronavirus while giving employees peace of mind. Technology takes your initiatives from being based on guesswork to more strategic, data-driven space planning.

Return to office technology

We designed Space-Right™ specifically for this purpose. This extension of our space and move management software allows you to set distancing parameters with a simple slider, instantly reconfigure floor plans, and reassign seats. You can also use it to stagger employee arrival times if you want your return to office plans to include bringing people back into shifts.

Flexible seating technology

Additionally, our desk booking software allows employees to share desks without sharing germs. By requiring them to reserve workspaces in advance, you can ensure your office never exceeds capacity limits. You can also use desk booking data for more effective contact tracing purposes. If an employee discloses they have tested positive for COVID-19, you can quickly identify who was sitting in close proximity to them during the period of potential exposure, find their contact information, and ensure a timely response that can help minimize the spread of the virus.

Mobile employee technology

Then, with our Hummingbird mobile app, you can confidentially notify employees who may have been exposed. In addition to receiving important safety announcements, employees can also use the app to find people, reserve space, and request cleaning services once they’ve left an area.

Visitor management technology

They can also receive notifications of visitors and ensure guests are registered in your visitor management system. Employees can even pre-register visitors to enable a touchless check-in experience when they arrive.

That way, guests will receive all the information needed for a smooth check-in ahead of their visit, including parking and location information, important entrance procedures, and a QR code they can use to scan once they arrive for their visit.

Get ready for your return to office

Although most employees have become accustomed to working from home this past year, the majority are looking forward to the return to office. They miss talking to their colleagues face-to-face, meeting in person with vendors and clients, and the camaraderie that comes with office-based work experiences.

There's nothing quite like sharing a physical space as you work together to accomplish your shared goals.

With the right technology, you can help your workforce rediscover everything your workplace has to offer while ensuring a safe return to office.

To learn more about how we can help you get your return to office plans started, request a free Space-Right demo today.

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