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Report: More U.S. workers want to return to the office

A number of companies have instituted, or are currently considering, a permanent work-from-home policy after seeing how well it’s worked during the COVID-19, pandemic. It now looks like a majority of U.S. employees actually want to return to their office, according to Gensler Research Institute’s “U.S. Work From Home Survey 2020.” According to the survey, only 12% of employees want to continue working from home five days a week. “No days at home” was the most popular response with 44%.

Why workers want to return to their offices

Approximately 75% of the survey respondents said “the people” was what they missed most about working from the office. They also noted that collaboration and staying informed about what their colleagues are working in was harder to do from home.

“When employees do come to the office, they expect it to be for collaboration and social connection,” the Gensler report said. “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 co-workers.”

In what may come to a surprise to some, the survey revealed it was younger workers who are having the toughest time working from home. Millennial and Generation Z employees said they find it more difficult to avoid distractions and maintain work-life balance than their older colleagues. Additionally, younger workers are less likely to feel accomplished at the end of the day and are less aware of what’s expected of them and how their work contributes to their organizational goals.

“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,” the report said. “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.”

Workers’ demands before they come back to the office

The Gensler survey shows that employees want to get back to the office, but not without some conditions—mostly health related. Employees want their companies to adopt social distancing practices and are open to adopting a shift schedule or more flexible working hours. Workers also expect to have to share workspaces less, but are concerned that there will be less investment in shared amenities and the potential that employers will discourage them from using public transportation. Additionally, 55% of workers listed stricter policies against coming to the office sick as the item that would make them feel most comfortable about returning to work.

“Workers want their workplaces to adapt to new paradigms—but how workplaces should adapt is still open for debate,” the report said.

Gensler’s report is good news for CRE

For months there have been stories about companies thinking of a permanent telework policy after the pandemic was over—a shift that could hurt CRE owners significantly. As this survey has shown, there are plenty of employees, and companies, that want to return to their offices. That’s good for CRE owners, who will have to take two big steps to make their tenants’ return experience a positive one.

First, they’ll have to take all the proper safety measures to ensure their building is safe to return to following the COVID-19 pandemic. These measures could range from increasing the frequency common areas are cleaned to overhauling the building’s HVAC and air filtration systems—whatever it takes to make tenants feel good about returning. The second big step is to reevaluate the in-building wireless network. It will be more important than ever to make sure it can meet tenants’ demands—especially in offices where people will rely more on videoconferencing platforms to communicate with those who are still working from home.

Joe Dyton can be reached at joed@fifthgenmedia.com.

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