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When Workers Do Go Into The Office, This Is What They Care About


Office workers across a number of the world’s capitals say they will return, full or part time if their workplaces offer more leisure options, safety measures, indoor air quality tracking and technological advances such as touchless access control, a survey of thousands of white-collar staff found.

More than 3,200 respondents across three global regions — including major U.S. cities, London, Dublin, Sydney and Melbourne — were polled by digital tenant and workplace experience platform Equiem. The platform is used by big office owners like Nuveen in the U.S. and Blackstone in the UK. 

The survey found only a small proportion of workers are back in the office full time. A greater proportion are hybrid workers, but people working fully remotely still make up a big proportion of office staff, although the number is shrinking. 

Beyond this, the biggest insight for landlords and property managers is the data on what workers care about when they do come into the office. Here are the key takeaways: 

Remote Easing Off

Nearly half (49%) of office workers are working exclusively from remote locations, down from 91% in May 2020. Almost a third (30)% of occupiers are hybrid workers, dividing their time between their main HQ and remote offices, with the remaining 21% back to full time.

Sanitising To Stay

Looking toward the future, hand washing/sanitising will be an ongoing and permanent change in societal behaviours toward health and safety in public spaces, among other safety measures, the survey found. Office workers expect hand washing (88%), surface disinfection (76%), social distancing (55%) and mask-wearing (52%) to remain in place, even when 80% of people are vaccinated.

A Hands-Free Future

The report found office workers want commercial landlords to prioritise safety, convenience and flexibility in their ideal workplace. Touchless access control (54%), indoor air quality (38%) and flex space options (37%) are among the highest-rated features desired by returning occupiers. These weightings are consistent across the U.S., UK, and Australia. 

Workers Say Relax

When asked to describe their ideal offices, occupiers rated relaxation zones (49%), fewer desks (34%), and more gym and workout areas (34%) highest among the desired features.

Offices Are Chiefly For Social Connections

After Covid-19, people want the office to be a hub for community and connectivity. Almost three-quarters (73%) of occupiers said the main purpose of the office is to stay connected to colleagues; the second-highest-rated purpose (70%) was a ‘place for collaboration’.

Remote Working Fatigue 

Occupiers are finally adjusting to remote working, but remote fatigue is a concern. Nearly half (46%) of occupiers said they are more productive when working remotely, compared with 33% in May 2020, the last time the study was conducted. Conversely, the number of people who said they are just as productive in the home as in the office has dropped: 40% in 2021, compared to 48% in 2020. Other global studies have indicated similar results.

“Globally, we always knew that human connection would be the main driver for why people would want to return to the office, but we wanted to uncover what they wanted from the office experience to bring them back on a regular basis,” Equiem Chief Executive Gabrielle McMillan said. “During the pandemic, landlords and office managers have had to listen to their tenants' concerns, fears and needs unlike ever before, and this will shape the office experience for years to come. Going to the office will need to be more experiential and technology-driven for it to be a drawcard, but the positives will be increased connectivity and greater engagement.”