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After the COVID-19 pandemic, the company's employees were initially forced to switch from working in an office to working from home. The good news is that, for the most part, the adjustment period was short and relatively painless. Most technical challenges were quickly overcome by finding the right app or hardware that would keep us productive as we physically separated from our usual office tools and colleagues. Security issues were also appropriately addressed.
Now that we have several months of home office experience, the question arises how this successful adoption of the work-from-home model will affect corporate protocols and how radically the traditional office environment as Corporate America will slowly change again for that Store open.
Related: "I Will Never Work The Same Way Again:" A Co-Founder's Remote Work Experiments
The answer has come easy for some large companies. First out, Twitter came out, announcing it wouldn't reopen its offices until September 2020, giving its employees the choice of whether to return or just work from home. Facebook soon followed, offering its employees the option of working from home permanently.
Our company was keen to get the pulse of the work-from-home employees. How did you feel when you worked from home? Were they ready to go back to the office or would they rather stay with remote access? Using Survey Monkey's services, our company surveyed 1,082 US-based remote workers, ages 18-65, about their experience working from home and how they felt when they finally got in after the restrictions were lifted Office returned.
We ensured a wide range of employees were interviewed, from employees and clerks to executives to senior managers, C-suite inmates, and company CEOs.
While opinions have been mixed in some areas, mainly on the importance of face-to-face communication with colleagues, certain trends emerged suggesting that if employers reopen their company doors soon, they will face some sort of revolution.
Let's examine some of the prevailing trends.
Employees are concerned about returning to the office
Of those surveyed, 38% said they were nervous about getting back to work and were eager to see what security changes would be made. Another 6% feared their company would force them to do so even if they wanted to stay away.
There is serious concern about what practices are being used to increase the safety of employees at work and how these practices can affect both comfort and productivity. Concepts such as alternating workforce shifts, redesigning the open office concept, changing HVAC airflow, and using meeting rooms are all areas of dismay.
Many report that they work more productively remotely
39% of our respondents said they were more productive remotely. And a large number (42%) indicated that work-from-home may replace physical offices in the future. While this may seem like a desire and forward thinking at first, the remote model has worked for a number of startups for years. It is interesting indeed that the office managers, delighted with open office layouts and guidelines for bringing your own equipment, were so reluctant to adopt a reality that came from your own space.
Related: How to Work From Home Successfully
Those who said they did NOT feel more productive working from home blamed the lack of the same resources (21%) and too many distractions in the form of children and chores (17%).
While many employees don't feel more productive at home, our survey highlighted at least one clear role the office plays: enabling and fostering connections between employees. 60% of respondents said it was difficult to maintain work relationships while working remotely, and 28% said they missed personal interactions with coworkers even though they are more productive at home.
Generational and work positions are shared
Interestingly, many of the responses did not reflect typical assumptions about the different age groups.
For example, younger respondents (18-29), who are generally considered to be tech savvy, were more likely to say remote working would do so Not replace physical offices (41%), while their older and presumably more tech-hostile colleagues (45-60) were more likely to say it would (45%).
Another interesting gap: senior-level employees said they felt less stressed and took more breaks during the day than their junior-level colleagues. Executives also said they were more productive at home than employees and co-workers who said they didn't have remote access to the resources they need to be effective.
The traditional office as we once knew it is no longer. The COVID-19 pandemic was a catalyst for many societal changes, and in the workplace, remote working suddenly became far more viable than companies had ever considered.
Related: 10 Must-Have Productivity and Life Hacks for WFH
While in-person office work will continue to have its place in the post-COVID world, the open office / cube farm real estate model needs to undergo significant and costly changes to keep conditions safe. An amalgamation of remote working and in-person work is becoming the new normal, especially as companies reevaluate the wisdom of getting expensive leases during an economic downturn.
Does your company have a workspace options strategy in place when it needs to be reopened?