The Great Return Is Not Guaranteed

Home Working Outperforming Offices Despite Leadership Pursuing Return To Office

People entering a building revolving door Leesman, the employee workplace experience analysts, have released their latest report ‘Why Workplace’, which guides business leaders on rebuilding the workplace post-pandemic. The report is supported by new Leesman data, encompassing the views of more than 860,000 office-based employees and 221,000 home-based employees.

The latest findings show that the average home, designed for living, has supported work better than the average office, designed for working: 84% of employees felt the space enabled them to work productively and 85% of employees reported being satisfied with the digital infrastructure (e.g. computing equipment) to fulfil their role when working from home.

Yet this isn’t the case for everyone, and some aspects of work are challenged by the absence of physical proximity. Although digital connection is generally well supported at home, feeling connected to the social dimensions of the organisation is harder; only 63% of employees feel connected to their colleagues while working from home.

This could be related to the challenges of supporting collaboration and interaction remotely. Based on the experience of the 64,000 employees who have worked in both the office and at home, informal social interaction was under-supported at home (42%), which is significantly lower than in the office (83%).

Leesman’s home working research has found that employees have actively transformed areas of their homes to accommodate for new, work-related demands. In addition, among the employees who worked from home pre-pandemic (221,841 employees in 2019) and those who have done since March 2020 (221,841 employees at Q2 2021), the proportion of employees who had access to dedicated work areas within their home, rather than working from a sofa or dining table, was seven percentage points higher in 2021 compared to 2019 (31% and 24%).

Tim Oldman, CEO of Leesman, says “More than ever, leaders need to think strategically about the spaces they are going to offer employees to work from. Many are moving towards converting offices into places of collaboration, but focusing on this alone would be to their detriment. The tasks an employee does as part of their role varies greatly throughout any organisation, and as such workplaces need to support a range of types of work, and a new hybrid workforce. It’s up to leaders to co-create workplaces that will draw employees in, or else they run the risk of keeping them away.”

Of the 80,634 employees Leesman asked about preferences to work in the office post Covid, 37% intend to work in the office for 0-1 days, 47% for 2-3 days, and only 16% prefer to use the office for most of their time (4-5 days). There’s a clear desire from employees to work in the office, but the home is still where they would rather spend most of their time. This has meant that place strategies and the purpose of the workplace post-pandemic has come into question. Workplaces now must cultivate culture, focusing on better engagement and hospitality for when employees are in the office, rather than delivering a space that provides functionality Monday to Friday.

Job role profile is also important when considering returning to the workspace. Exploring the preferences of more than 27,000 employees who worked in the office and at home during the pandemic revealed that 40% of the employees who plan to work in the office for 4-5 days are working in collaborative and highly collaborative roles and just 29% work in individual or highly individual roles. This shows that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the workplace, but if leaders don’t act now, they risk losing out on the opportunity to use workplace as a tool for competitive advantage in 2021 and beyond.

For more data and workplace insight, download the full ‘Why Workplace’ report here: