With two-thirds of employees wanting to spend at least half of the week working from home and only 18% wanting to go back to offices full time, it seems as though many offices could be left much emptier than before the pandemic.
But as managers and business owners, getting employees back into the office may be an important step forwards for many reasons including ROI on rent and office maintenance, company morale and team collaboration.
So what do employees want from their office space that will entice them to come back into the office more regularly?
We’ve analysed several reports and identified 4 key things that are important to employees that they want from office spaces.
1. To feel safe and secure
During the COVID-19 pandemic, over half of remote workers demonstrated concern about the health and safety issues of being in a shared environment. While the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us, concerns around physical health in the workplace are more prevalent than ever.
Your office space should look after your employee’s physical health and wellbeing. Let’s be clear, this is about more than simply having hand sanitiser at the entrance – everything about your office set up and layout should promote or improve the wellbeing of your employees.
- Natural light has been shown to improve sleep and reduce headaches caused by eye fatigue
- Plants remove harmful compounds from the air and release water vapours that reduce respiratory irritation
- Increasing space between employee workstations around the office reduces the amount of germs and bacteria they can spread to each other throughout the day, alongside transparent screens between desks which do not block the light out.
- Office equipment should be kept in the right positions for employees to avoid injuries and strains caused by prolonged periods of poor positioning. Make sure you carry out a simple DSE assessment to check your equipment.
- A good ventilation system which increases the flow of clean air in and stale air out, will prevent the circulation of germs around the building.
2. Space to collaborate and connect with co-workers
One of the elements that has been sorely missed by many remote workers is the ability to connect and collaborate with co-workers (reported by 39% of office workers). Virtual solutions haven’t quite filled that gap since they can’t replace the spontaneous collaboration that comes when you bump into someone in the kitchen or overhear someone talking at their desk.
Even those who have been able to keep socialising have reported that they’d like to have the opportunities for in-person collaboration upon returning to the office (67% of employees).
The ability to collaborate in person will likely be the selling point of your office for employees who have become accustomed to remote working. For this to work you not only need to have a meeting space in your office – you need a meeting space that provides the best experience possible for your employees. By understanding exactly what your employees need, you can make sure to deliver it e.g. while your board members and management teams may need large meeting tables for everyone to sit and discuss at, more junior members may prefer informal cosy environments where small groups can work in a relaxed setting.
The key to developing a great space for collaboration starts with developing a solid understanding of how your employees work best.
3. Space to focus
While collaboration hasn’t been as avid compared to pre-pandemic working, fewer distractions and more time alone has led to many employees feeling more productive and focused on their work. Understandably, some employees are concerned about losing that ability to focus and be productive when sharing office space with others.
That’s why, as well as providing spaces that allow for collaborations, it’s equally as important to make sure your office has spaces for employees to focus on their work without distractions. A great way to approach this is to have other spaces around the office that employees can use to work at besides their main desk where there may be conversations, emails and calls coming in frequently.
Pods, workbenches, private offices and sitting areas are all great options for focused work areas – but as with your collaborative spaces, you need to find the solution that will work best for your employees and office culture.
A staggering 56% of remote workers reported experiencing burnout during the pandemic since there was little separation between work and home life. By incorporating spaces to focus within your office you can provide the same productive environment that workers crave while creating boundaries that have positive effects on mental health. Read more about the psychological effects of good workplace design.
4. Flexible work schedules
While there have been drawbacks to working from home, there have been undeniable benefits for many employees including reduced commuting costs, more time with their families and the ability to work more flexible hours.
Nearly half of remote workers are concerned that returning to the office means less flexibility and multiple surveys have even found that employees would consider leaving their jobs if flexible working was completely taken off the table.
The majority of employees would like to work part-time in the office with the ability to work remotely as and when they want or need to. This means that your office not only has to work well for those who are in the space, but also for those who are not.
Think about how you can maintain the collaborative atmosphere with employees working remotely – are your meeting rooms set up to accommodate remote and in-person workers with the right tech set up?
Flexibility also means more than remote or in-person working, one of the biggest benefits reported has been that employees can work different hours to their peers without causing disruptions. Consider how your office space works for those who may keep different hours to most – is the kitchen right next to the main working area making it loud and disruptive for those who work during most people’s lunch hour? How does the lighting feel once it’s dark outside and there is less natural light coming in through windows?
Your office won’t work for flexible workers if they feel like the space hasn’t been designed with them in mind.
Along this same vein, the workstations you create should accommodate flexible workers. For some, a permanent designated desk can make them feel pressured to come into the office more frequently than they’d like whereas hot desks still provide them with a workstation but without the strings attached.
Ultimately, providing an office space that employees want to come to is all about knowing what your employees want and need from a day at work. We are adept at working across entire organisations to balance the differing needs of all departments, and provide design and fit out solutions that work for your day-to-day business functions, and investment.