One year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced states to issue stay-at-home orders and many employees started working remotely, a survey by Seyfarth at Work reveals what employees have missed and what they are looking forward to when they return to the office.
The survey of more than 500 participants from companies of all sizes found employees most miss in-person and “grown-up” workplace conversations, selected by 61% of respondents. Forty-two percent of employees miss the regular, daily structure of the office.
Not surprisingly, employees said they miss lunches and happy hours with colleagues (40%) and having fewer interruptions from children during the workday (37%). However, what may surprise some is that 16% of survey respondents said they miss the daily commute. For these employees, the commute is alone time, used to think or read.
Employees were also asked about what they expect from their companies and work in the future. That included:
- More flexible work options (e.g., remote workdays; staggered schedules)—cited by 72% of survey respondents;
- More employer emergency planning (for future pandemics/crises/downturns)—59%; and
- More focus on organizational values (concerned with society, not just the bottom line)—44%.
Philippe Weiss, president of Seyfarth at Work, a management consultancy, suggests employers start strategically planning their return-to-office processes now for those working remotely. He notes that some of his clients are preparing to send staff newly created maps of their office layout, with arrows pointing to any workspace improvements along with creative commentary, such as: “Stop here (in our renovated employee snack bar) for a socially distanced chat.”
Employers should start initial re-training of managers regarding on-site policies and protocols, as well as give them skills to manage a hybrid workforce (i.e., employees splitting time between home and the office), Weiss says. Employers will need to stay vigilant in terms of supervision once people do start returning to the office, he adds. “Employees’ understandable temptation, after many months apart, to chat nonstop or take extended lunch breaks with [co-workers], may be hard to resist,” he says.
Finally, Weiss suggests that employers set up contingency plans for future disasters and economic upheavals. One of his clients is establishing an employee rainy-day fund with seed money contributed by the company owner and a promise to match amounts contributed by employees.
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