Survey shows many employees seek a hybrid work model, revealing a continued need for office space.
Companies in the United States have taken a variety of approaches to their remote work policies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Twitter announced employees whose physical presence isn’t required could work remotely going forward, as did Salesforce, while other tech companies like Amazon and Facebook extended their telework polices through at least the middle part of this year. Other companies like Goldman Sachs are allowing employees to telework, but are anxious to get workers back to the office.
Real estate and investment management firm JLL’s research team recently released a study, Shaping Human Experience: A focus on hybrid work and four emerging worker profiles. Based on the results, it’s not surprising that companies have had such a different approach to their remote work policies. After all, if employers had differences of opinion about telework during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond, it only makes sense that workers’ thoughts on the matter would vary, too.
JLL surveyed 2,000 office workers around the world about working from home during the pandemic and found there were four personality types emerging out of this topic. The personas included the Traditional Office Worker (prefer to work full-time from the office, 32%), the Experience Lover (one to two days WFH, 32%), the Wellness Addict (three to four days a week WFH, 24%) and the Free Spirit, full-time WFH, 10%).
“Hybrid work is the new normal, but it is a multi-faceted reality,” JLL wrote in its report. “In our new research, involving a survey of 2,000 office workers across the world, we have learned that hybrid work and work from anywhere are the most desirable path forward.”
The survey saw 66% of respondents want to be able to work between different places following the pandemic, while 72% want to work from home from time to time (a 34% increase from before COVID-19). Meanwhile 40% of respondents would like to be able to work from a third-party location like a co-working space or coffee shop.
The office still has its place
Although JLL’s survey numbers skewed towards work from home preferences, it’s important to note that that a hybrid solution comprised a majority of the four personas—the Experience Lover and Wellness Addict combined for 56%, while the Free Spirit, full-time WFH persona only made up 10% of the respondents. That means even the workers who enjoy working from home like having the office as an option.
“These new working patterns cannot be decoded as a uniform reality,” JLL said in its report. “Strikingly, our research shows that not all places of work attract the same worker profiles. The office remains a central place for older employees (above 50 years old) who remain more traditional in their work styles.”
The survey also found that working from home was a popular chose within the technology and web industries (the early remote working adopters). More traditional industries like consumer products, heavy industry, banking and insurance found WFH as a nice complement to office work. The third-party workplace option is generating the most interest in the 18 to 24 and 25 to 34-year old age brackets.
“For many it is a stylish way of working, especially attractive to the tech and web industry, but also to employees working in the consumer products field,” the report said.
Employees’ expectations with a hybrid work environment
It might seem daunting for employers to meet four different work personas’ demands, but there is some common ground amongst these groups when it comes to a hybrid work model. Many workers are embracing the hybrid approach because of health and well-being concerns and fear of the Coronavirus. So when they do come back to the office, there’s an expectation for new working routines that include no big, in-person meetings and conducting digital interactions when possible. There’s also hope that new office standards will be in place such as physical space separation and no desk sharing.
Health and wellness concerns are just part of why most of the survey respondents favor a hybrid work model, however. They also enjoy the work-life balance that comes with it, whether that means no more daily commutes, the chance to create a more flexible schedule and the freedom to live outside of their city.
Communications is KEY
JLL noted the quest for a healthier and more balanced life wouldn’t necessarily be an easy journey, however. The company recommends the frequency of remote working be closely monitored because even though letting a worker choose where they work can boost engagement, empowerment and fulfillment. Of course employees expect that their digital interactions and communications of all kinds do not change regardless of where they work. They expect good communications everywhere or job performance deteriorates.
“Working frequently from home is not suited to all work styles and family backgrounds (access to a desk, possibility to isolate and focus, presence of kids around, etc.),” JLL said in its report. “If not managed carefully, it might negatively impact workforce morale. Our research identifies a breaking point: if more than two days a week are worked from home, the benefits in terms of engagement start to drop off, while anxiety about the future and disenchantment begin to win ground. Offering employees the opportunity to change their center of gravity is a scenario that needs to be cautiously explored.”
Socialization was the one benefit of working at the office continues to deliver, according to report. One in two employees consider socialization spaces crucial to their office experience going forward. The office’s social role is the only one that all workers, regardless of their desire to work from home, acknowledged. However, the office will need to be more than just a place for employees to socialize if employers expect workers to split their time between their homes and their desk.
“The office cannot be reduced to a social hub only,” the report said. “The workplace of the future will have to find the right balance between collective needs and individual comfort. It will have to offer a biophilic design, together with spaces that respect the need for concentration and privacy. It will also have to provide spaces that support people’s growth, creativity and collective intelligence. Variety and choice will be at the heart of an office’s value-add, while a core need will be the accommodation of all working expectations and all work styles. The best workplaces will be the ones created in close consultation with employees.”
To learn more about JLL’s research and the four different WFH personas, download the report.
Joe Dyton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.