The Death Of The Office? Hardly. Research Suggests The Majority Want To Return To Work

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COVID-19 inevitably gave a new lease of life to the working from home vs office debate, with people’s experiences over the last few months challenging their prior assumptions about the former. Far from thinking COVID-19 will hail the ‘death of the office’, post-pandemic people will be looking forward to a return to their workspace with renewed vigour. [28/1/21]

And we aren’t just saying this, proud as we are of our bespoke offices in the heart of Nottingham’s Lace Market. A number of studies conducted since the start of the pandemic have investigated the negative effects working from home has on employees’ mental health, while surveys have demonstrated that the majority of workers want to return to the office as soon as it is safe to do so.

Nuffield Health, Britain’s largest healthcare charity, found that a shocking 80% of Brits feel that working from home has negatively impacted their mental health, with a similar figure being found by Oracle’s Workplace Intelligence survey

The cause of these staggering figures isn’t difficult to discern. While the idea of ‘working from home’ might once have evoked idyllic thoughts of lie-ins, spending more time with loved ones, and no longer having to spend an extortionate amount of money on a Pret meal deal, the reality of the last nine months has revealed the dark side of home-office work. 

As well as stifling collaboration (Zoom meetings over questionable Wi-Fi connections are hardly the ideal setting for efficient communication and inspiring collaboration), home-work prevents real social contact, with loneliness being a major issue for remote workers. While those lucky enough to have home offices might find themselves with a physical barrier between their work and living spaces, an inability to adequately manage work-life is also a commonly-cited issue for remote workers. An under-researched field is the effects of working from home on young professional couples living in studio flats, who have to find ways to deal with the awkward and strenuous reality of simultaneous Zoom meetings. 

Working from home can take a toll on employees’ physical health too. Meetings, once a welcome reprieve from staring at screens, have become video-conferences, meaning that workers are spending more time staring at their monitors than ever before. And while some are no doubt happy to see the end of that dreaded daily commute, those who would ordinarily walk or cycle to work may be finding themselves at a loss without this daily exercise.

Though a Business News Daily article tried to put a positive spin on things, it couldn’t ignore that 29% of remote employers struggle to manage their work-life balance. Later starts (for those lucky enough to have them) lead to later finishing times, while the lack of a physical barrier between work and relaxation spaces can make it difficult for employees to ‘switch off’. The same article states that remote employees put in 1.4 more days of work every month, leading to a staggering three additional weeks of work per year. Excess work can lead to burnout, so there’s no wonder that 31% of remote employees said they’ve had to take days off for their mental health.

And while that extra 1.4 free days of work per month might look appealing for employers, the fewer breaks, shorter lunches and longer hours those working from home experience have led many craving a return to the office. While not having to dish out on a daily commute is appealing to most, any apparent cost-benefits incurred by working from home are offset by the 10 hours unpaid overtime remote employers work every month. 

And if their employees’ mental health isn’t enough of a reason to get businesses to consider a return to the office, dubious reports of remote workers’ increased productivity might be misleading. A survey by Porch.com found that a staggering 72.2% of employers watched TV while on the clock, 64.6% completed personal tasks while working and 20.4% left the house without telling their employers.

While Porch.com’s study might present working from home as a kind of liberal ideal for employees, the survey wasn’t shy to highlight the downsides of remote working, emphasising that over half of remote workers feel lonely throughout the day. Lockdown has changed many individuals’ understanding of isolation, with the majority of remote workers missing being around other people more than any other benefits office work offers. Clearly, a return to the office in some form benefits both employees and employers alike.  

Benefits of working in a dedicated office:

  • Boosts your employees’ mental health
  • Decreases levels of loneliness
  • Helps maintain a healthy work-life balance
  • Dedicated work spaces increase productivity and inspiration, providing fewer distractions
  • Encourages collaboration and cooperation
  • Reduces screen time
  • No unreliable connections (our creative spaces offer uncontended ultra-high-speed and back-up Wi-Fi)

And that shows in the stats. One survey conducted by Gensler found that only 12% of employees want to continue working from home after the pandemic, with the majority wanting to return to the office. Notably, Millennial and Gen Z employees are the groups that are most likely to be less productive and satisfied working from home, representing a desire for a dedicated working space amongst a growing workforce. 

At Spenbeck, we recognise the necessity for a return to the office to benefit employers and employees alike. Without face-to-face meetings, companies cannot optimise their collaboration, and companies that don’t collaborate can’t flourish. Therefore, we are doing everything we can to make our creative spaces COVID-safe and fit for companies to thrive.

If you are a business owner looking to return to the office to boost your employees’ mental health and productivity, get in touch and find out how we can make our offices work for you. 

Matteo Everett