Gensler's U.S. Work from Home Survey 2020 Shows Most Workers Want to Return to the Office

Published 6-1-2020

Gensler has published the results of its U.S. Work from Home Survey. The study explored the current experience of working from home during the pandemic and how this is influencing people’s expectations for the future workplace. The survey was conducted to help provide greater insight into the work-from-home experience and how the workplace will be designed in the post-COVID world. As a result, Gensler is building a better understanding of how to address pre-pandemic workplace issues, including the need for more space, less desk sharing, and more autonomy.

Of 2,300 full-time U.S. office workers at companies of 100 or more people, from April 16 to May 4, only 12 percent want to work from home full-time. Before this experience, only one in ten U.S. office workers had regularly worked from home, and less than a third previously had the option to work from home. The study showed that people overwhelmingly want to return to the office, with 70 percent wanting to be in the workplace for the majority of their week. However, they want to see changes from the pre-pandemic density levels, ensuring there is more space for physical distancing while addressing noise and cleaning protocols.

The top reason workers want to return to the workplace is to connect with their colleagues face-to-face. When asked what they miss the most about working in the physical office, three out of four respondents said the people. When asked to rank the most important factors for their desire to come into the office, meetings with colleagues, socializing with people, and impromptu face-to-face interaction were the top three answers. Despite the mainstream adoption of virtual collaboration technologies, respondents still listed people-focused reasons as the most important reason for coming into the office. By the same token, 55 percent of respondents said collaborating with others is harder, and 51 percent said staying up to date on the work of others is more difficult while working from home.

The study also found a generational difference in work-from-home productivity and effectiveness. Despite the assumption that younger workers generally have greater technological preparedness, an aptitude for mobile work, and are more rehearsed at building virtual connections, the survey showed that younger workers are reporting a far more challenging experience working from home, finding the experience more stressful, and reported getting less work done compared to their older peers. Additionally, they are less likely to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of a typical day and are less certain of what is expected of them.

Employees are expecting to return to the office, but that it will be a different environment with new protocols. Of the workers surveyed, 55 percent reported that in order to feel comfortable returning, a combination of stricter sick policies, enhanced cleaning operations, and new space configurations that accommodate physical distancing must be in place. Topping the list of new measures and practices viewed favorably by respondents are increased social distancing and more flexibility to work from home as needed, each with a 73 percent favorable rating.

Gensler has also created the “Back to the Office: Return Strategies for the Workplace and Office Buildings” resource. This comprehensive roadmap offers space guidelines, proprietary tools, and services for what organizations need now, in the near term, and in the long term.

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