There was a very interesting survey that was conducted by Gensler with some 2300 participants. In the study they asked participants questions regarding their interest in working from home or an office, what they missed most about working from an office, how productive they felt working from home, their level of concentration. Clearly, there is a strong interest, especially among the Millennial and Gen Z workforce, in returning to an office setting.
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Here is a link to the study results and a few excerpts that we thought were quite telling.
The lessons learned from the experience of working from home during COVID-19 offer an unprecedented opportunity to rethink the future of the physical workplace. Only one in ten U.S. office workers had worked from home regularly before this experience, and less than a third had the choice to work from home. While many of the effects of COVID-19 on the workplace are still unfolding, some points are emerging clearly from our data:
1) Most workers want to come back to the office.
2) Workers expect crucial changes to the workplace before they’re comfortable returning.
The changes that will make people comfortable coming back to the office also offer an opportunity to address problems that already existed in the physical workplace, from issues with noise and density, to challenges related to mobility and unassigned seating.
The preference for working in the office is consistent with Gensler’s workplace research data collected regularly since 2005. Workers with choice in where to work prior to COVID-19 spent 72% of their average work week in the office compared to only 12% working from home, overwhelmingly choosing the office as their preferred place to work.
When employees do come to the office, they expect it to be for collaboration and social connection. Nearly all workers list people focused reasons as most important for coming into the workplace, with little variation across industries. Despite the rapid adoption of virtual collaboration technologies, people still clearly value face-to-face interactions over virtual ones, in many cases, and miss the company of their coworkers.
When asked what they miss most about working from the office, three out of four survey respondents said “the people”. Workers also report that certain activities, such as collaborating and staying informed about what others are working on, are harder to do at home, underscoring the value of physical presence.
The top reason employees want to come to the office: the people. Respondents were asked to rank what they believe to be the most important reason(s) for coming into the office.
1) Scheduled meetings with colleagues 54%
2) Socializing with colleagues 54%
3) Impromptu face-to-face interaction 54%
4) To be part of the community 45%
5) Access to technology 44%
6) To focus on my work 40%
7) Scheduled meetings with clients 40%
8) Professional development/coaching 33%
9) Access to amenities 29%
Millennial and Gen Z workers should have had a leg-up in the transition to working from home, as they tend to have more experience working and socializing virtually and are often associated with the work-anywhere lifestyle already on the rise prior to COVID-19. However, younger generations came into this experience having worked from home less often in the past and, overall, with less optimal work-from-home environments.
Despite their technological preparedness for mobile work, younger workers report a far more challenging experience working from home than their older peers. They are less likely to feel accomplished at the end of a typical day. They are less aware of what’s expected of them and how their work contributes to organizational goals. And they report struggling most to maintain work-life balance and avoid distractions at home.
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