The office is more important than ever

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The careful easing of the intelligent lockdown has begun. Elementary schools are open, child care services are available, and outdoor sports activities have been allowed to resume. And restaurants, cafés, and movie theaters have reopened under certain conditions. We are on our way to ‘the new normal’. This also applies to the office. One thing is for sure: the way in which we work is going to change permanently. Working from home is a game changer, but will only make the office more important.

The five reasons why we will work from home more

1. This is what office workers want

The findings of the first working-from-home surveys conducted by organizations such as Measuremen, Leesman, and Colliers have shown that employees feel that working from home one or two days a week increases productivity and gives a better work-life balance. Two-thirds of Dutch homeworkers would like to work from home at least one day a week, even once the current restrictions have been lifted.

2. Preconceptions have gone 

The technology works, the connections work, and data security has been demonstrated. Moreover, it turns out that people really are more productive at home. Preconceptions about working from home have been disproved. Seventy-eight percent of our own employees say that they do not experience productivity loss at home or even feel that they are more productive at home. Traditional counter-arguments that may have been raised by management are losing ground. 

3. Working from home is a new habit 

Returning to old behavior becomes more difficult as time passes. British research by Jeremy Dean has shown that it takes between 40 and 254 days for people to form a new habit. On average, it took the participants 66 days to form a habit. Most of us have been working from home since 16 March, which is now well over 66 days. Moreover, the long period of working from home has meant that many people have invested in improving their home workstation, with a second screen or a better desk chair, for instance.

4. Better open-plan offices

One of the criticisms often heard of open-plan offices is that it is hard to concentrate. For many open-plan offices this is indeed the case. With employees now regularly choosing to work from home for one or two days, open-plan offices could directly benefit as they would work better and no longer require renovation. Home is the ideal place for individual work that requires concentration. The open-plan office will be used more for what it is well-suited: working together and meeting others. Colleagues and working together are the two things missed most when working from home.

5. A healthier work-life balance 

There has been a great drop in traffic since we have been working from home more. The average amount of time lost by commuters due to congestion is 40 minutes per week. On an annual basis, this means that approximately one full-time working week is gained for activities more useful than being stuck in traffic. Of course, time is also saved for other means of transport. Omitting travel time all together leads to a healthier work-life balance. 

If working from home works so well, why do we still have an office? Companies such as Jet-Stream and Ksyos have been portrayed in the media because they will no longer use offices. Is this a small group of enlightened minds or is it the start of a new trend? We are convinced that the office will remain for the majority of organizations, albeit in a different role. 

The five reasons why the office is more important than ever

1. This is what office workers want 

The fact that two-thirds of office workers would prefer to work from home for one or two days automatically also means that they would like to go to the office for three or four days. Only 20% of the Dutch do not want to return to the office at all. The ideal work situation for the majority of people in the Netherlands is therefore a combination of working from home and at the office. 

2. It leads to more creativity

The productivity of people working remotely all of the time remains the same for most people: 78% of our employees is as productive or even gets more work done. However, this means that this is not the case for 22% of the employees. It is creativity in particular that is affected in the long term. Virtual meetings are not the same as physical interaction. This has a direct impact on cooperation and creativity. Face to face brainstorming works much better.

3. We miss human contact

More than half of the homeworkers (59%) said they wanted to go back to the office because they miss their colleagues. Video calling is efficient, but not the same as face-to-face contact. Social interaction and spontaneous encounters, such as water cooler talks, are being missed. Organizations have to find the new optimum between digital and physical social interaction.

4. It is important for corporate culture

In 2013, Yahoo’s CEO at the time announced that they would no longer allow employees to solely work from home, i.e. not coming into the office at all. The media headlines claimed that ‘Yahoo is abolishing homeworking’. This was incorrect. Yahoo actually wanted to strengthen the employees’ ties with the company. The company encouraged physical presence to create a stronger corporate culture under the motto ‘We need to be one Yahoo’. It is hard for a company to maintain the connection with its employees if they do not have a place where they can meet regularly.  

5. We are experiencing FOMO

As in social life, many also experience fear of missing out (FOMO) at work: the feeling that something is passing you by if you are not there. This is a feeling you can easily get if you have been working from home for a longer period of time while your colleagues have been working at the office. The office is not only a workplace, it is also a place where you learn things. Sharing knowledge is not always something you can plan; it often happens spontaneously. This is important for all employees, but particularly for younger generations.  

In other words, working from home will not replace the office. On the contrary, the office will become more important because it provides benefits that working from home cannot: working together and being together. The limited number of gatherings at the office will be more valuable now with more people working from home. The office will need to be redesigned accordingly. It will need to feature lots of areas for meetings, to brainstorm, or simply to catch up. Quiet areas to concentrate will be less important as people can do this at home. 

All organizations will need to find a new balance between working from home and working at the office. A balance that is right for the organization, the corporate culture and business processes. This should be the top priority for management as it has an impact on two of the largest cost items of many organizations with an office: staff and housing. It also determines the employees’ commitment to the organization, job satisfaction, and the carbon footprint of a company. These are all issues that can be addressed with a new balanced workplace policy. An opportunity that you must seize now. 

What does working from home mean for your housing, your employees, and your organization’s overall need for office space? Determining the new balance between working from home and working at the office will be essential in addressing this. We can help you put arrangements in place for this new reality. One of the ways in which we do this is by using our CIAO app, which has been developed to manage office occupancy safely. Additional information can be found in our report.

 

The office is more important than ever

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Harold Coenders

Partner | Director Occupier Services

Rotterdam

Harold Coenders is Director of Occupier Services Netherlands.  Harold is an expert in developing innovative workconcepts linked to the productivity of the workforce and in organisational cultural change programs.

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