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Survey: Most People Really Want To Return To The Office

by Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers on August 20, 2020
Planning A Safer Workplace Now And In The Future

We’ve all heard that working remotely is the new normal, but the majority of people still expect to return to the office at some point, according to a recent Gensler "return-to-office" survey.

Of course, employees’ preferences depend on many factors, including how productive they’re able to be at 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 to return to the 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% 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, with 74% of this group saying they preferred an office environment to working from home.


Source: Gensler

What do people miss most about the office environment?

The top reason most employees want to return to the office 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.

They also ranked being part of a community, access to technology, and a greater ability to focus on work as important reasons to return.

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


Source: Gensler

What do employees need to return to the office?

By now, most employees realize returning to work won't mean returning to business as usual.

They expect more freedom to choose where they work, a cleaner office, and more distance between workstations.

They also want more touchless technology — including doors and light fixtures — to help them reduce their use of shared surfaces.

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


Source: Gensler

And as more employers consider flexible office space strategies like hot desking and hoteling, they need to understand that not all employees will be eager to embrace them.

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

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 floor plans and cleaning protocol.

How can technology help employees return to the office?

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

Technology can help employers do this in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

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.

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 to return to work in shifts.

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 contact tracing purposes. If an employee discloses they have tested positive for COVID-19, you can identify who was sitting in close proximity to them during the period of potential exposure.

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. 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.

Although most employees have become accustomed to working from home this past year, the majority are eager to return to the office. They miss their colleagues, meeting in person with clients, and the camaraderie that comes with sharing a physical space. With the right technology, you can help them safely return to work.

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

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