Employee reluctance to return to the office isn’t simply coming from a desire to avoid long commutes or do their laundry in the middle of the day. Apparently, the in-office experience is quite problematic, according to a recent survey conducted by Appspace of 800 employees and 100 IT managers from various U.S. organizations with over 1,000 employees. Ninety-three percent of respondents who work from the office believe their organization could do more to enhance the in-office experience.
Employees’ Office Preferences
When employees were asked to rank the most necessary office improvements, the top priority was providing “consistent and simultaneous communications to all employees” regardless of their work location. This beat out “providing more flexibility on hybrid and remote work options” by a considerable margin.
The survey also found that younger employees, particularly millennials (93%), are more likely to factor in whether their colleagues will be at the office when deciding whether to go in. This suggests the social aspect of work remains a significant consideration for the younger generation. Moreover, 78% of millennials, compared with 35% of baby boomers, agreed they waste time transitioning from working remotely to working in the traditional office setting.
In this digital age, with an array of virtual communication tools at our disposal, one might assume the younger generation would be content with virtual interactions. However, the survey results suggest that in-person connections are still highly valued. Building and maintaining strong relationships with colleagues is essential for collaboration, innovation, and overall job satisfaction.
The survey results suggest Marc Benioff and Mark Zuckerberg have a valid point when they speak of getting younger employees into the office more often for the sake of learning and mentoring. That shows the key role of effective mentoring programs, which help address senior employee resentment over coming to the office to mentor as part of a program rather than simply hoping for a vague “mentoring by osmosis.”
The Ideal Office Space
According to the report, organizations are investing in technology to improve hybrid and return-to-office workplace experiences. However, legacy solutions and an overemphasis on improving efficiency are preventing gains in performance and social connectivity.
For employees working remotely, 79% experienced at least one of the following challenges: feeling connected to and engaged with their work; finding a sense of belonging and culture at their company; feeling a sense of camaraderie with their coworkers; and inclusion in virtual meetings, e-mails, or messaging conversations. These challenges highlight the importance of fostering a sense of community and belonging within an organization regardless of employees’ work locations. By addressing these concerns, companies can create a more inclusive and engaging work environment for all employees.
An often overlooked aspect of the in-office experience is the physical environment itself. Companies should invest in office designs that promote creativity, collaboration, and well-being. This includes creating spaces that cater to different work styles and preferences, such as quiet areas for focused work, communal spaces for collaboration, and comfortable break rooms for relaxation and informal conversations.
Additionally, incorporating elements of biophilic design, such as natural light, plants, and access to outdoor spaces, can have a positive impact on employee well-being and productivity. By creating a visually appealing and functional work environment, organizations can make the office a place where employees genuinely want to be.
The Appspace survey highlights the need for organizations to rethink the in-office experience and invest in technology that fosters seamless communication, connection, and collaboration among employees. It’s time to turn the traditional office into a destination where employees feel engaged, connected, and productive. By focusing on improving the in-office experience, organizations can create an environment that appeals to employees across generations and work styles, ensuring a thriving, future-proof workplace.
Dr. Gleb Tsipursky is the CEO of Disaster Avoidance Experts, a consultancy that specializes in helping analytical leaders adopt a hybrid-first model instead of incrementally improving on the traditional office-centric model.