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Office Experience Report Q1 2023: Connect and Communicate for Increased Office Activity

workplace experience, hybrid work, return to office
Eric Lani
Published on

In 2022, the average hybrid employee came into the office about 22 times or slightly less than 2 times a month. This represents a 60% increase from 2021, and while we’ve made some good progress, many companies are still concerned when looking at high lease costs on their balance sheets. 

In fact, more than two years since the start of the health crisis, fewer than 30% of knowledge workers around the world are working from the office every day. 

As companies increasingly ask for more face-time with employees, leaders everywhere are asking themselves: 

  • How can we get a return on our investment and bring more people back?
  • What are the right tactics for encouraging people to come in?  
  • How can we use the office as a catalyst for connection? 
  • Will my workplace guidelines affect retention or talent acquisition or both?

At Robin, we’ve found the most effective ways to get employees to use the office is through building communities with strong communication. For our new Office Experience Report, let’s try to better understand trends in office activity by looking at thousands of workplace data points from Robin customers.

Increased Office Visits by Industry and Location

Not all industries are following the same patterns, according to our data. When it comes to increase in office visits since 2021, the retail industry takes the lead with a 122.9% increase. Makes sense, when you consider retail is a largely in-person role and those in office roles are being asked to follow suit. Following retail is information technology (82%), professional services (78%) and manufacturing (76%). Interestingly, real estate (30%), healthcare (22%) and governments (-6.6%) all sit at the bottom of the chart, indicating a much slower return to office for these industries.

When we drill down into city data, San Francisco and London hold the lead in increased office visits with 127% and 101% respectively. We have seen a considerable uptick across Europe when it comes to people getting back into the office. We can’t help but wonder if the weather plays into the return to office rate for San Francisco, with colder cities like New York and Boston trailing behind. 

3 Things High-Performing Teams Get from the Office

When we take a look at these numbers, it’s clear progress has been made but there’s still more to be done. Leaders are looking to understand how to get a better return on their office investments. Yet, there’s more at stake than sunken costs. 

The office plays an important role in company culture, employee retention and talent development. Just take a look at some of these stats: 

People miss their in-office community:

  • In an Axios survey of employees, 74% of respondents said they miss having an office community.
  • A 2021 survey by job-search site Indeed found that 73% of people missed socializing in person and 46% missed work-related side conversations that happen in the office.

People miss out on informal learning without the office:

  • A recent MIT brief proposes estimates that during the pandemic, that informal and observational learning decreased by 25%. 
  • According to Linkedin research, more than two-thirds of those aged 16-34 believe the pandemic has impacted their professional learning,

People prefer a hybrid model - both in office and remote:

  • Most employees agree that a moderate amount of time in the office is important, and Gallup's research has consistently shown that work flexibility tends to be optimal for engaging employees and reducing burnout -- before and during the pandemic.
  • Six in 10 employees want more structure but little more than a third of that group agree on how to define hybrid for their organization.

Employers need to consider the broader benefits of having an in-office community and better communicate the ways in which meeting in-person can fulfill important social and professional needs. But before that happens, organizations need to consider what kind of hybrid approach they plan to take and clearly communicate that policy. 

Different Hybrid Models to Inform Your In-Office Guidelines

Organizations will, ultimately, need to decide what kind of hybrid approach works best for them. If you can come into the office anytime, when is the right time? If you can sit anywhere, where is the right place to sit

Without instruction, employees experience the “analysis paralysis” problem. At Robin we found that companies who offer office communication, such as making an announcement, see a 71% increase in office usage. Whatever structure you choose, make sure to communicate it clearly to your teams.

Let’s do a quick rundown of the different hybrid working models.

Office-centric hybrid: When companies require their employees to come into the office most of the time, but they build in one or two days each week when employees are allowed to work from another location. Office-centric hybrid models don't need to infringe on employee flexibility, employees can be given flexibility in terms of setting their own hours.

Fully flexible hybrid:  Here, employees can choose when they'd like to work from an office and when they'd like to work from another location. When executed correctly, teams get choice and offices are more collaborative - a real win-win.

Remote-friendly hybrid: This approach involves placing guardrails on which employees can work remotely. It can be lucrative from a hiring perspective--especially in enabling top nonlocal talent to work remotely. 

Hybrid remote-office: This model involves giving employees options to choose from: remote option, a flexible work option (employees work from an office two to three days per week), and an in-office option. This "choose-your-own-adventure" allows for more predictability than the fully flexible model. 

Remote-first: A remote-first model usually involves most employees working remotely by default--either from their homes or from anywhere. Remote-first companies build their processes, systems, and culture around remote workers (rather than in-office workers) first.

By this point, most companies have tried out different models, changed their plans and adjusted their hybrid policy. 2023 should be the year companies look to better streamline their workplace plans, to create processes and strategies that minimize friction and maximize connection.

Prioritize Streamlined Communication and Better Office Visibility

Whatever your ratio, be sure to make communication a top priority. Don’t give employees the chance to be confused about your intentions. Remember: clear is kind. Lay out your plans in detail and ensure people understand what is expected of them when it comes to in-office requirements. 

Communication is a two way street when it comes to office managers and employees. We have found that hybrid employees who have the opportunity to provide feedback about their office experience, come in 35-110% more often than employees who are not offered the same. Paradoxically, employees who have given negative feedback, such as broken equipment or office temperature, tend to come in 60% more often than those who have only positive things to say. Maybe those comments about broken monitors are less about complaining and more about improving the space for future use.  

Information sharing is not just needed from top down or bottom up, hybrid employees also benefit from cross communication with their coworkers. This is shown by the fact that hybrid employees use the office 80% more often when planning ahead with their coworkers

This highlights the need for creating visibility among staff so they can coordinate and use the office for collaboration and meeting in person (or maybe just to grab lunch with a friend). Enabling staff to more effectively plan with others is an important step businesses can take to get more people in the office. 

Let Data Drive Your Workplace Plans 

You’ve got the desks, the rooms and the technology to manage both - now it’s time to optimize your plans to maximize engagement. 

Not sure if your approach is working? That’s where workplace analytics comes in, adding another layer of insight into your planning process. Consider looking to the data to answer questions like: 

  • What parts of the office are being used most? 
  • Which departments seem to come in most often? 
  • Do we need more desks or meeting rooms? 

These numbers show you how the office is actually being used, informing your workplace guidelines. Creating plans that match your employees current working patterns can make the transition back to the office more seamless. 

Looking to learn more about better office management in the new world of work? Recent research shows that 73% of workplace leaders using a workplace experience platform felt confident in executing their hybrid work strategy. 

Tools like Robin can help get you there. Let’s chat more about how to take your workplace to the next level.

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