The Modern Office: Evolving needs and fresh perspectives

The team at WKSpace has tracked what office workers expect from their employers and the workplace over the past 12 months. To date, we have surveyed over 169,000 office workers globally.

Our latest data suggests that the drastic changes predicted for the workplace early on in the pandemic, are not likely to come to pass. Watch the Essential Office webinar for the full breakdown.

However, what is clear is that employees are looking to have a greater say on where and how they work going forward - and worryingly many are considering changing jobs as we come out of the pandemic.

This latest piece of research focuses specifically on three markets - the UK, the Netherlands and the USA.

Employee wellbeing

As working from home continues to be the norm, overworking seems to have become a habit for many and it’s beginning to take its toll.

In the USA, 41% of respondents stated that remote working has made them feel more stressed, and over a third of workers in the Netherlands agree.

For the Dutch, the increased stress was attributed to unsuitable home set-ups, with many forced to work in confined spaces, often shared with family members.

In the UK, nearly half of the respondents reported that the pandemic had impacted negatively on their physical and mental wellbeing. So, has this changed how employees view remote working?

Old habits die hard

In January this year, only a fifth of workers across the three markets wanted to drastically change how they split where they work going forward. This is a drastic reduction compared to May 2020, when over half of respondents were looking for a different way of working.

This suggests that people are becoming more realistic about the drawbacks of remote working and are perhaps looking for a more holistic approach that incorporates both home and office.

What is clear though, is that employees expect to play a greater role in how their working patterns and workplace is structured, with 89% of respondents across the UK, the Netherlands and the USA asking managers to consider their views.

Here’s why employers should listen

Perhaps one of the most concerning findings, is the sharp increase in people considering changing roles. In August, those expressing an interest in moving jobs were the lowest since WKSpace started collating data at only 19%.

Now, the figure averages 33% across the three markets, with US workers the most likely to consider it at 41%. Respondents stated a higher salary and a healthier work-life balance as top motivators.

Using the office for...

When asked why they wanted to return to the office, socialising and collaboration were cited as the top reasons for the British and the Dutch, with all three territories including the USA agreeing it served as a much-needed change of scenery.

Alarmingly though, perhaps, 37% of US workers wanted to use the office for printing documents, while 27% of those in the UK said they would travel to access files.

This suggests that there is still a distance to go in the digitalisation of the office - and a need to reduce the reliance on paper for more robust sustainability practices.

Going green

One positive shift in attitude over the past twelve months is that both employees and employers agree that more needs to be done to tackle environmental issues.

Interestingly, respondents in the Netherlands and the UK - both of which rank relatively highly in the UN Sustainable Development Report 2020 at ninth and 13th respectively - felt that they ‘could do more’ on an individual level to protect the environment.

US workers, on the other hand, felt that employers should take more responsibility in tackling sustainability. Employees in all markets, however, agreed that educating people on better practices and choices was vital.

Perhaps, it comes as no surprise that air quality and ventilation are key concerns for employees from both a health and sustainability perspective as we emerge from a global pandemic.

What’s next?

Despite discussion surrounding the ‘death of the office’ in the early stages of the pandemic, employees are now looking for a way back to their colleagues and a dedicated working space.

The role of the office in working life is likely to become more defined as employees seek sustainable and flexible spaces to accommodate socialising and collaboration.

Such changes will continue to define the design and layout of workplaces in the months and years to come. Watch the full webinar here and you can find the full suite of webinars available on demand here.

Hannah Nardini Workplace Strategist: WK Space Full bio and articles

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