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Employees aren’t rushing back to the office. But there’s still a good reason to keep it open

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The slow reopening of workplaces has proven divisive. Some employees relished the opportunity to escape the confines of their homes and once again work alongside other humans. For others, the news portends a dreaded return of the 9-5 office and all its irritating minutiae.

Whatever your feelings about the remote work versus the office debate, it seems workers aren’t rushing back to their desks. According to an analysis of data from workspace booking platform Robin, US employees worked from the office on average just 4.9 days per month in the first quarter of 2022, with office capacity at just 25%.

That’s a lot of empty offices. But these numbers don’t tell the whole story.

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For example, 95% of employees polled by Robin reported a “positive office experience,” compared to just 1.18% who reported a negative experience and 4.23% who reported a neutral experience. This suggests that when workers choose to go to the office to work, they get what they need from their time.

SEE: “Come for the free lunch”: how a company is redesigning its office for remote workers

Remote work has been welcomed by many knowledge workers, who have saved valuable time by not having to travel to an office to perform work that can be done just as well – if not better – at home. .

Even so, some employees still appreciate the social interaction and teamwork benefits that a shared workspace facilitates, leading business leaders to wonder what role the office will play in new work models. post-pandemic.

Robin’s report doesn’t exactly address which aspects of office workers they love or hate, but it does reinforce the idea that most employees appreciate having a dedicated workspace to use when they need it, and that the office does not necessarily go the same way as the dinosaurs.

Office use by employees is also on the rise, albeit at a gradual pace. Robin found that US employees were working from the office just 3.7 days per month in Q4 2021, and employees in the US and Europe – where office capacity is ahead by 35% – saw an increase 18% of the total number of employees working from the office. office in the first quarter of 2022.

Similarly, the employee “bounce rate” – the percentage of employees who only come into the office once in a 30-day period – fell to 18% in the first quarter, indicating that workers use the office more regularly.

Employees who had a positive experience on their first visit to the office came 10% more often than those who had a negative experience, Robin found.

The office orders “a slap in the face”

Despite signs that some employees are taking advantage of back-to-office time, Robin said there is “a growing chasm between management teams and employees” when it comes to managing return-to-office plans.

Some financial companies, for example, monitor office traffic by tracking how often employees use their access card. Meanwhile, many big tech companies are insisting on office presence or otherwise offering pay cuts for those who want to work remotely, despite the fact that tech workers have been among the most vocal in pushing back mandates. office.

Robin said such mandates felt like “a slap in the face” for tech workers who have been key in getting companies through the pandemic. “When companies needed their employees to go home and work their butts off in the midst of a pandemic, that’s precisely what they did,” the report said.

“The stigma of working remotely turned out to be false. Employees could be trusted to be productive without the direct oversight of their managers and they could cite historical company profits and profits as proof.”

SEE: The future of work: how everything has changed and what’s next

If employers insist that employees return to their desks, workplace leaders “need to create an open dialogue with their employees to refine their desk experience based on real-world feedback,” Robin said. This includes reconfiguring workspaces to facilitate more spontaneous interactions between colleagues and clear incentives for employees to return.

Some companies have achieved this by radically reinventing their physical workspaces to emphasize the aspects of the office that provide the most value to employees, such as a focus on meeting and collaboration spaces. But there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

“Every business is forced to meet this challenge head-on and make the best decisions under difficult circumstances,” Robin’s report said.

“It is under these auspices that we report a handful of troubling trends that Robin’s data team sees emerging that workplace leaders need to address quickly.”

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