With every new year comes a clean slate, and this year things look a little different than they did last January. Our work lives will not return to normal after the pandemic. Businesses worldwide need to adapt to a new way of working. Now that we all know we can work from home, we also found out what we greatly miss. Think about the casual catch-up with a colleague behind the coffee machine, a spontaneous meeting, or simply just an ergonomic place to work. In 2021, the office is here to stay. Why? We’ve summed up 5 reasons.
1. Sense of belonging
Around 45% of employees do not feel connected to their coworkers and organization while working remotely. The feeling of belonging –which is essential in employee happiness– is one of the main reasons for employees to go back to the office. Employees need to feel part of an organization to do their best work.
According to Leesman –the world’s leading independent assessor on measuring employee workplace experience– employees have access to all the programs they need to work from home (90%) and all the information they need to do the job remotely (84.9%). The survey they did among 144,581 respondents last year, showed that employees may have all the tools they need to work from home, but there is still a lot missing.
Although sitting behind your webcam in sweatpants and a blouse may be comfortable, it’s not always enough. The rule of personal communication from Professor Albert Mehrabian in the 1970s stated that our communication exists of 55% body language, 38% voice and tone, and 7% spoken words. This means that in the last year, we’ve missed 55% of our needs for personal communication.
Facial expressions are more likely to be understood in person and learning is easier to do face-to-face. In 2020, almost half of employees (45%) did not felt supported learning from others while working from home. BBC research shows that employees who start a new job remotely, have to advocate more for themselves than they like. Next to that, team members do not know what the new guy is capable of and in return, the new colleague has no long-term relationships that help him get the job done. This leads to stagnation in learning and weaker soft skills because employees simply are not getting enough face-to-face contact.
Employees in the office all have a similar place to work, employees at home unfortunately do not. People may deal with an unfit home office, homeschooling children, or feelings of loneliness. Even though a lot of companies helped employees with setting up their home office by handing out equipment, some employees may still do not like to work from home. On the other hand, some employees might prefer to work from home as much as possible.
As an employer, you should be able to offer your employees the choice to work from home or in the office. This is essential in giving people the autonomy they need to feel happy in their jobs. Giving employees freedom and flexibility over when and where they work is key in 2021 and can boost employee well-being. Research from BCG shows that 60% of employees want flexibility in where and where they work in the future. If you take away the option of going to the office at all, you may lose part of your workforce to other companies that do offer choice.
Teams who work together frequently solve complex problems more easily, build better relationships, and feel better about their work. When employees feel like they belong to a team, they just feel happier and healthier. Microsoft found out that the shift to online meetings decreased the time we spend collaborating. If you think about the fewer minutes spend in the meeting, this can be seen as a potential benefit. But when you consider creativity, it’s not always a good thing.
In 2020 only 38.1% of employees felt supported doing creative thinking from home. Think about all the creative ideas we have been missing last year because we worked remotely. The office can boost collaboration, not only by getting together as a team, but also by having the flexibility and space to collaborate in.
So, collaboration in the office can boost creativity and help us bond with colleagues spontaneously. In 2020, only 52.6% of employees felt supported having unplanned meetings. That makes perfect sense, since it’s easier to bump into your colleague from sales in-person than on Slack. And those moments of spontaneous interaction are where the magic happens.
Spontaneous meetings are perfect for running over a specific topic of discussion with your team or team member. They are often productive because don’t cost time planning, and the topic is already clear. But with everyone working online, they have not happened that much in the last months. If you ask us, unplanned meetings and creativity go hand-in-hand and are the perfect way to get the creative juices of your workforce flowing. But only in the office.
Be ready for the next chapter of work
Employees will choose to do some things differently, based on the last year. Businesses need to make sure they offer the tools employees need to feel comfortable and safe in and around the office. Our smart office platform can help. It makes in-person work possible and lets employees connect with teammates to book shifts on the same days and in the same areas. Next to that, our tools can help your workforce to find available workplaces and meeting rooms that fit their needs, anywhere, anytime.
Don’t forget, the last period without a physical office has been hard on all of us. As humans, we are all creatures of habits, so it will take time and guidance to help people get settled back to the office. Use this moment as a fresh start and be ready for the next chapter of work. Our team of smart office advisors is here to help you set up your back-to-office strategy.