By the Facility Executive Staff From the February 2023 Issue
Starting up conversations by the water cooler, creatively brainstorming new ideas with team members, and getting to know coworkers on a more personal level are all advantages that come with working in-person. These interpersonal interactions were sought out after spending so much time apart during the pandemic, and employers listened. But, according to new research, many employees want to come back to the office to maximize their productivity and focus on individual work.
This is one of the most notable findings from the new 2022 U.S. Workplace Survey from the Gensler Research Institute, the research arm of a global architecture and design firm.
To learn more about these findings, Facility Executive spoke with Janet Pogue McLaurin, Global Director Workplace Research, Principal at Gensler.
What was the most surprising finding from this survey? What are some of the most important takeaways for facility management professionals?
What surprised me the most was a shift in the role of the office. Throughout the pandemic, U.S. office workers ranked working in-person with my team/colleagues, connecting, and socializing as the three most important reasons. Now, 48% of respondents rank “to focus on my work” as the top reason to come into the office which can entail working alone as well as with others. For facility management professionals, this means providing access to private spaces for deep concentration is as critical as places for group work. It’s also important to note the second top reason employees ranked for coming into the office was “access to technology.” Given 56% of meetings in the office are hybrid and require the spaces and technology to meet new performance demands, employers need to ensure their tech is accessible, effective, and inclusive for those in-person as well as virtual participants.
This survey reveals that younger generations have a clear preference for hospitality-infused experiences, while older workers prefer a blend of business-like and hospitality-focused work experiences. Can you provide examples of these experiences, and why they’re becoming more important in the office?
In our survey, we described eight everyday experiences that respondents could relate to—ranging from library, conference center, residential, to a boutique hotel—and respondents could select experiences and toggle each to create a pie chart of their ideal mix. When we segmented the data by generation, experiences like a coffee shop, boutique hotel with hospitality-infused spaces, and informal collaboration rose to the top. One example of this mix of experiences is the Uber office space in Chicago. Uber’s workspace was designed as a mix of human experiences around purpose, presence, and connection. These experiences support the “whole” person with work settings from social lounges, outdoor greenspace, and wellness amenities. Uber employees can work together in shared spaces, connect in social spaces as well as focus on their individual work in quiet, reflective spaces. Located on the Chicago River in the repositioned Post Office building, Uber employees can also take advantage of an amenity-rich neighborhood and use these spaces to work as an extension of their office space as well.
What suggestions might you have for employers on how they can bring employees back into the office?
Employees not only want an effective workplace that optimizes productive work, but they also seek a mix of experiences from their work environment. In our survey, 42% of U.S. office workers said they would be willing to return to the office one day per week if their company would provide their ideal mix; another 24% reported that they would return full-time. Before the pandemic, the workplace was on a trajectory to diversify work settings and experiences to match the dynamic nature of work and office workers want to see that trajectory continue. We found that providing spaces for individual quiet work as well as spaces for creative group work differentiate the “highest performing workplaces” from the lowest performing ones. And these high-performing workplaces are highly correlated with better individual and organizational outcomes leading to higher business performance.
What else is important to note about this survey?
In the survey, we not only asked how much time U.S. office workers are currently spending in the office, but we also asked how much time do they ideally need to work in their company’s workplace to maximize their individual productivity and team productivity. We got another surprise—employees reported that they NEED to spend more time at the office! It begs the question of why aren’t employees coming to the office for their ideal? What’s holding them back? How can the physical work environment be a place where people want to be?
Work has changed and our workplace expectations have changed. This next phase will be one of experimentation and learning. Facility managers should listen to employees and observe which spaces are in high-demand and re-purpose any underutilized spaces to meet new demands. Look for opportunities to pilot new ideas, make small space interventions, and get employee feedback before scaling broadly. This is an exciting time to reimagine a BETTER workplace for the future.Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, or send an e-mail to the Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.