The office: What employees miss, and what they don’t

A mass work-from-home experiment has been thrust upon many companies. With offices now empty, there are many things that employees miss but a lot that they do not. For companies to establish their post-pandemic office requirements, they will need to think about how they will be utilised Businesses will need to identify what value is truly derived from the office and re-work it to be fit for that purpose. Let’s take a look at what people miss about offices and what they don’t, to get a clearer picture of what employees’ workplace needs are.

What do we miss about offices?

Face-to-face interaction

One of the biggest factors that people miss about the office is the face-to-face interaction. From water cooler chats to team lunches and spontaneous interactions – what people miss the most about offices is human interaction. Buffer’s remote working report found that loneliness and communication were two of the biggest issues when working remotely. Another report on remote working by Deloitte found that 45% of employees miss the social interaction and that 31% felt that the office is more collaborative. A whopping 75% of respondents from Hubble HQ’s report felt that the negative to working from home was the lack of social interaction. It’s hard to deny those figures. Working from home full-time can be incredibly isolating. The office provides a place to work alongside fellow colleagues, building relationships and camaraderie.

The culture

Workplace culture is critical to a company’s success, and culture is incredibly hard to instil when employees are fully remote. One thing that isn’t the same for many is the workplace culture, and it’s the culture that ultimately drives satisfaction, loyalty and productivity. A focus group participant from Cushman & Wakefield’s latest report said: “Culture trumps strategy every single time, and the challenge in this environment for talent is really making your culture stand out. You have to walk the walk and talk the talk when it comes to culture, demonstrating that it’s part of your DNA.” The focus group voiced concerns about the impact of remote work on company culture. They felt that for many companies a ‘cultural capital’ had been built up over many years of “interpersonal relationships, trust, shared history, vision buy-in and more.” but they were worried about the lasting impact if companies do not return to the office. This sentiment was mirrored in Get Abstract’s survey results where 19% of respondents felt that the biggest downside to continuing to work from home was feeling disconnected from their company.

Access to learning and mentoring

A downside of working remotely full-time particularly for both young people and new starters has been the lack of access to learning and mentorship that was available in an office environment. From working alongside more experienced peers, younger employees found that offices provided an excellent outlet for on-the-job learning and spontaneous mentorship that they don’t get when working from home.

Work-life balance

Working from home full-time is very different to working from home one to two days a week. The office separated our work life from our home life, and many have found it hard to unplug when working from home and many have experienced burnout. Although working from home has offered a great deal of flexibility, the downside has been that our homes have become our workplaces and for some, this makes it hard to disconnect from work. A hybrid workstyle with the option to work in an office some of the time will help ease this.

What don’t we miss about offices?

Businesses will need to identify what value is truly derived from the office and re-work it to be fit for that purpose. Let’s take a look at what people don’t miss about offices so we can identify what the future office will look like with this in mind.

The amount of time we spent in them

Post-pandemic, most employees do want to return to an office environment, the main difference is that they do not want to do it five days a week. Working remotely over lockdown has had its challenges but it’s also given us a lot more flexibility, freedom, fewer distractions (for some) and time saved on long commutes. As we move into the new normal, employees want to retain some of these perks. 76% of employees want to continue working remotely post-Covid, however, only 16% would like to say farewell to the office forever. To second this, Cushman & Wakefield’s latest report findings summarised that: “A mix of in-office and remote work options are likely to maximize employee and organizational performance.” and that “Employees want choice and freedom in where they work, but few want to work outside the office exclusively.

Long commutes

Pre-Covid, the average commute was 59 minutes. It’s no surprise that long commutes are not missed, with two hours saved for other things. A survey by Get Abstract found that the leading reason that people wanted to work remotely was due to not having to commute (followed by flexibility and productivity at home). Hubble HQ’s survey found that a whopping 79% of respondents voted the lack of commute as the best thing about working from home. And, who can blame them? Not only are hundreds of hours saved a year but also thousands of pounds in public transport costs or petrol.

Distractions

51% of respondents from Flexjob’s survey found that survey respondents were more productive when working from home, with the main reasons behind that being fewer interruptions and a quieter work environment. That being said, ‘WFH fatigue’ has begun to set in for many. Cushman & Wakefield’s focus group felt that despite the surprising levels of productivity, in the long term this will not be sustainable with one focus group participant stating: “It’s just not sustainable at the levels people have been at to remain productive; it’s going to be at a cost to them [office workers] personally.”

Meetings

Meetings that could have been an email, meetings about meetings… People definitely don’t miss endless meetings that feel pointless. Now, with meetings having to be arranged beforehand by Zoom, pointless and spontaneous meetings have been drastically reduced. And we can’t say we’re mad about it. Of course, meetings are essential for collaboration, team building and identifying creative solutions to problems. But pre-Covid, employees felt that there was an unnecessary number of unproductive meetings. A report by BOOQD discovered that almost half of employees surveyed felt that meetings wasted their time at work and that there were too many meetings. Shockingly, 91% said that they had daydreamed during a meeting and 73% said that they worked on other things.

A hybrid workstyle will be the future of work

From reviewing the pros and cons of the office and remote working, what we can establish is that the future of work will be hybridised. Fully remote working is unrealistic for most companies and in order to establish workplace culture and team collaboration, some form of office space will be required. That being said, the way we had been utilising offices was not efficient and was not giving employees full job satisfaction. What employees need is flexibility. The option to work from home when they know that they’ll be more productive there, but equally the option of office space for when remote work isn’t suitable.

Companies will need to instil a new level of trust in their employees in this new way of working, and in return, they will most likely receive more loyalty and a higher level of job satisfaction from their workforce. Companies must focus on optimising their ways of communication and collaboration for hybridised work, to ensure that distributed teams do not become disconnected. Leading companies will transform digitally and implement workplace experience platforms as a digital hub for their workplace.

District Technologies is a workplace experience platform that allows communities to navigate the workplace and stay connected from anywhere. Workplace communities can use the platform to simplify their on-site activities from checking into the building, booking a desk or ordering lunch. The app is also a workplace social network which keeps your community connected wherever they’re based with news, resources, events and communications.

District Technologies is the go-to workplace experience platform that delivers to landlords and companies. A snapshot of some of our clients include; WPP, Investec, CEG, Elmpark Green, Cushman & Wakefield.If you would like to find out more about District Technologies, simply book a demo or get in touch.

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