Report – Offices and Ways of Working After the Pandemic
The pandemic has changed a great deal for office workers. Increased flexibility around where work takes place is in and of itself nothing new – nor is working from home an unknown phenomenon. Flexibility in the way we work has long been on the rise, with employees working from home when the type of work called for it, or even when it helped strike a balance between work and personal life.
However, the extent of teleworking and the amount of work being carried out remotely grew much higher overnight. Also for those who’d seen their desk as the central place for work before the pandemic, there was suddenly no alternative than to change, at least temporarily.
Questions were raised within organisations, such as:
• How would business change as the physical distance between co-workers increased?
• How do you compensate for the decrease in social contact and spontaneity of workplace interactions?
• How should we follow up work processes remotely?
• And how can we ensure a good home working environment?
As officials got used to wearing stylish upper-body clothing and simpler bottoms, new routines emerged. Suddenly, the new situation felt as normal as when, in the years before the pandemic, we stood face-to-face in rush hour traffic and inhaled the breath of a fellow passenger. This tells us something about man’s amazing ability to adapt to new conditions — it’s said that necessity has no law. But now, as we leave the pandemic behind and return to the office, new questions are coming to life.
This study contains data from eight different organisations within the private and public sectors,
with an emphasis on the public sector.
Within these organisations, 1,618 people were invited to respond to the survey, of which 1,133 people (approximately 70%) participated. 14% of participants were managers with personnel responsibility, and 17% responded that they lead others.
The largest minority, about 33% of participants, have a flexible way of working, while approximately 23% have their own private office rooms, and 17% share a room with two or three others. The remaining participants have fixed seats in an open-plan office. The data was gathered in 2021 over Quarters 2 and 3.
This study was conducted by Dr. Aram Seddigh through WeOffice workplace analytics plattform. Dr. Seddigh has been responsible for the data processing, statistical analysis and the conclusions of the study.
Conclusions from the study
The study shows that there’s a strong desire for continued teleworking after the pandemic. Teleworking requests are primarily linked to work/life balance, as well as to the ability to carry out work tasks in an efficient way.
In cases where the home environment isn’t conducive for the work at hand, employees prefer to work from the office to a larger extent. Conversely, when the office environment isn’t satisfactory, employees wish to work from home more days a week. How one judges his or her productivity or creativity also depends on the conditions of the office prior to the pandemic. In this case, an increase in productivity and creativity during the pandemic correlates to an experience of the office as less-equipped to support the work at hand before the pandemic.
Further, the study reveals that a large number of participants wish to carry out individual tasks at home, though this link is weakened in cases where the pre-pandemic office environment offered good opportunities for focus.
At the same time, we do not find a link between how well the office supports collaborative work and meetings and a increased desire to carry out this kind of work from the office. This might be due to the fact that employees head to the office when they need to meet in person regardless of how well it supports collaboration and meetings. A conclusion that can be drawn from this finding is that an office that caters to a need for concentration and focus can attract employees back, while a large investment in creating meeting spaces doesn’t necessarily translate to a more attractive office environment.
Another conclusion is that poorer conditions for individual work in the office can’t be offset by good meeting areas. When the time between meetings is at risk of being wasted if employees aren’t able to properly devote it to individual work, employees may avoid going to the office when the meeting can be carried out online.
Another aspect to keep in mind when considering further remote working is the cost of preventing social isolation. Employees who wish to break social isolation in anticipation of increased remote working, experience greater pressure from their work, feel less involved in the organisation, experienced a lack of community during the pandemic, and value their general health lower. On the other hand, aspects that are associated with positive outcomes in regard to remote working are aspects such as autonomy, self-leadership, and good prerequisites to work digitally.