The most important reason workers come to the office is to focus on work, a Canadian workplace survey conducted by global architecture and design firm Gensler has found.
“We wanted to understand how are people working and where are they working and how has that shifted through the pandemic,” Garima Gupta, senior strategist with Gensler Vancouver, told the told the Daily Commercial News.
“As they are coming into office we have these five work modes that people spend time in. People are working alone, they are working with others virtually or in person and they’re also learning and socializing.
“There was an interesting surprise and shift that we saw in the data. Through our years of research and through our global surveys, working with others in person was the number one reason and this was consistent across demographics, across industries, across generations. This is the first time that we’re seeing that people want to come back to the office to focus on their work.”
She added focus doesn’t necessarily mean working alone. It can also mean working with your peers and being more productive.
Rounding out the top five reasons when asked “What is the most important reason to come to the office?” are: socializing with colleagues; access to technology; scheduled, in-person meetings with team members; and to sit with one’s team.
The Gensler Research Institute surveyed 2,000 office workers across Canada last year. The research institute at Gensler has been conducting global workplace research and surveys for the last 15 years but this was the first survey in Canada.
“These were workers who had started coming back to the office in some capacity,” said Gupta, adding the survey represented demographics from different industries. “We have a very robust set of questions. The main premise was around the workplace and the effectiveness of the workplace, what are the reasons that are bringing people back to the office, what are some of the things or experiences they are looking for in the office, how are they spending their time when they are in office.”
The survey also asked questions about where people are working and how much are they working in the office.
“Our data is showing us that people are spending about 50 per cent of their time in office right now,” Gupta noted. “Ideally people want to spend at least three to four days in office to really balance their individual and team productivity.”
One of the big findings was the experiences that people are coming back to the office for. This could include coffee shops, residential, library, boutique hotel and corporate settings.
“Gone are the days of seas of workstations and just coming in and working on your own,” she stated.
“People are looking for unique experiences. People are looking to come in and do all those activities that they missed through the pandemic, whether that’s feeling like they belong to the community, experiencing the culture of the company, really working together in meaningful ways.”
With the data showing the highest vacancy rates in the office market than ever before, how organizations are planning office space going forward is critical.
“Not only do we need to think about how are we designing our offices in terms of architecture design and construction, but also looking at the bigger forces that are shaping the city, so what is bringing people back to not just the office but a safe commute and things like child care and day care opportunities that people need in order to come back to work,” Gupta said.
Currently the office effectively facilitates activities such as socializing and working together in-person but it’s less effective in supporting individual work and working together virtually, the report states.
“Fifty-three per cent of the meetings are hybrid meetings now, so really enabling our conference rooms and equipping them for these hybrid meetings because currently not all conference rooms are equipped that way,” she said. “We need to respond to how can we upgrade the office whether we are making big changes or small changes to really integrate those new ways of working.”
Many organizations are not comfortable making decisions right now because it’s a changing time, she added.
“This new way of working is going to evolve over the next few years,” Gupta said. “Gensler is recommending a ‘test and learn’ approach to doing things…testing ideas and solutions with a smaller group, smaller space within one’s organization, dedicated pilot floors and labs to test products and policy and placemaking for different groups withing the organization.”
The information in the survey can be used by everyone, she added.
“This information not only benefits the designers and people in the construction industry, but also the decision-makers who are deciding what to do for the real estate footprint for their organizations, who are creating policies at the moment,” she said. “There is a lot of information in here which equips them to make those decisions.”
SIDEBAR: Other findings from the survey include:
- Workers say they ideally need to be in the office more often than they are currently to maximize productivity. The sweet spot for time spent in the office is between three and four days a week, with 63 per cent of employees citing this as their ideal.
- Employees want autonomy on how they plan their day. Fifty-nine per cent of employees prefer to come to the office for partial days or specific meetings and events while 36 per cent of employees want to come to the office for full days.
- While the time spent on in-person and virtual collaboration has remained the same, the time spent working alone in the office has gone down (47 per cent to 34 per cent) over the pandemic and has been replaced by time spent on learning and socializing work modes.
- As workers return to the office, they not only want an effective workplace, but employees desire a rich blend of different experiences. Of the employees not already working from the office full-time, almost half said they would return at least one additional day per week, and a total of 75 per cent reported they would return to the office more regularly if their ideal experience was provided.
- Younger generations say they are more willing to come into the office more often for their ideal mix of experiences. While Gen Z workers prefer amenity-rich experiences such as coffee shop and boutique hotel–like spaces, older generations are more likely to prefer a mix of both hospitality and business-like experiences.
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