According to our recently published Workplace Collaboration: 2021-22 Research Study
, based on data gathered from 476 different-sized businesses across a range of industries, Metrigy has found that 87% of employees now work from home either full or part time, up from 72% last May, and more than double the 34% who worked from home prior to March 2020. Today, just 12.7% of companies require employees to work in the office, with in-office work typically due to job roles that aren’t possible to do remotely (e.g., health care, maintenance, security, etc.)
Going forward, 21.4% of participating organizations expect to require in-office work, either full-time or part-time, while 36.4% will give employees the choice of continuing to work from home, working in an office, or splitting time between each. Just 38.3% say they expect employees to remain full-time at home even once the pandemic (hopefully) ends! Those requiring at least part-time work, or allowing employees the choice in work location, report that they expect employees to be in the office nearly half-time. Just 24.6% have evaluated potential real-estate savings from reducing office space.
These results mean that the traditional office is not yet dead, though it is already going through rapid transformation. More than a third of participants in our research told us of several changes they are making or planning to make to their offices to support a safe return both now and into the future. These include:
- Increased cleaning and sanitation of office spaces, including increasing the availability of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes
- Directional signage and controls meant to provide adequate spacing
- Limiting capacity of office spaces to ensure adequate social distancing
- Adding plexiglass barriers between office workspaces
- Eliminating open workspaces
- Reducing conference room sizes and dividing large meeting rooms into smaller spaces
- Adding more enclosed workspaces such as phonebooth-style rooms for individual work
- Installation of touchless devices for accessing rooms as well as activating voice/videoconferences
- Mandating anti-microbial coatings for all remaining touch devices, especially those in shared or temporary workspaces
- Implementation of filtration systems to improve air quality and circulation
One particular area of investment is videoconferencing: 57.1% of participating companies are adding videoconferencing systems to meeting spaces. The idea is that the future workgroup will likely consist of a mix of in-person and remote participants, therefore high-quality video meeting experiences become a baseline requirement for collaboration success. In fact, just 23.3% expect their employees to even return to having meetings in traditional rooms for the foreseeable future.
Approximately half of participating companies are implementing symptom-check apps that require employees to answer health-related questions before being allowed to enter the office. Thirty-five percent will implement contact tracing to allow notification of those who have been exposed to someone testing positive for COVID-19. These later two initiatives are likely to create privacy concerns and require proactive addressing by HR and IT teams. We did not ask about vaccine requirements, but some organizations will likely attempt to mandate vaccines for those wishing to return to the office, creating further potential privacy issues especially in different regions of the world.
The reality is that the office of tomorrow is likely to look different than the office of today. Social distancing, isolation, videoconferencing, and enhanced cleaning, and pre-arrival checks will all be part of the IT, HR, and facilities arsenal going forward. All three groups must proactively plan for this new normal by working together to implement technologies and physical office space changes. In addition, organizations must plan for privacy issues related to information gathering and sharing.