Ooof, prior to a pandemic we certainly didn’t think we’d ever be asking this question. But, given the circumstances— Great Resignation still going strong and a new highly contagious strain of Covid making in-person work nearly impossible—we have to ask: Is an office necessary? The answer is nuanced and one you’ll have to ultimately decide for your company. But we can at least provide some guidance based on our current research.
First: What’s actually happening to office spaces?
Admittedly, the news can be very alarmist, so let’s talk about what we know. Right now only about 28% of U.S. workers are returning to the office after working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic. The benefits of returning to the office seem to be outweighed by concerns around personal safety, family care needs, and life-work balance. And then, on the company side, many workplaces have shuttered simply because they became an unnecessary financial burden. In conclusion, yes, more companies are making the decision to (a) not force anyone back into the office and (b) shut many, if not all, of their workplace locations in lieu of hybrid or remote work.
Second: What do employees really want?
Given the ongoing issues around the pandemic (the difficulty of finding childcare, discomfort around potential sickness with in-person work, etc.) the workers who are able to choose would rather stay remote with the ability to go hybrid once in a while. Some of your workers may have relocated, making returning to in-person work impossible. Employees want to feel that their employer is taking their safety seriously—and forcing anyone back into in-person office work will most definitely lead to more resignations. It’s pretty clear: employees enjoy the benefits of working remotely far more than having to tackle the logistics of returning, period.
Third: What are the office options?
There are many companies getting rid of offices—either these companies are downsizing their office space to one location or they’re closing up shop completely. Of course, there are some benefits people miss about the office: socialization, better focus and a change of scenery are just a few of those benefits. But if your office space was a dinosaur-era sea of gray cubicles, it’s less likely anyone misses returning to that kind of space. Fortunately, there are many platforms, like Deskpass that make the hybrid work model easy and affordable to do, regardless of where your workers are. Coupling this option with crafting best practices for your hybrid work model, you can easily offer in-person options that work for all. There are also remote work best practices you can reinforce, along with investing in the best apps for remote collaboration.
In short, if your physical space wasn’t the welcoming, happy place that everyone wanted to return to, then yeah, you should probably close those doors for now. Consider hybrid work models that bring your company into modern times and encourage collaboration on your employees’ terms. Don’t force people back into situations that are unsafe just because you are paying rent. That money is better invested in your people. Speaking of…
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