2021 was the year we tried to get back to the office, 2022 will be the year we make hybrid work the global standard.
As we continue to wade our way through workplace changes, our team of data scientists wanted to update our monthly RTO tracker to match the landscape.
We’re happy to introduce our new and improved Hybrid Workplace Report. This monthly content will offer workplace leaders insights into how people use their offices in a hybrid work environment, rather than focusing on the number of feet walking through the door.
In the inaugural January Hybrid Workplace Report, we dive into the Omicron variant’s impact on the workplace. Specifically:
- North America and Europe’s wildly different responses to the latest COVID strain
- Employees’ role in stymying Omicron’s spread within the office.
- Workers aren’t the only ones coming back to the office. (PS: guests are back, too!)
Omicron a Bump in the Road for North American Offices
The Omicron strain of the Coronavirus had a clear effect on North American workplaces. The total number of employees dropped in January across the entire region. Boston (40%) and San Francisco (50%) had the largest drops of all major metro areas.
IT, professional services and healthcare companies were hit particularly hard as each of these industries experienced a 30% decrease in employees using the office.
However, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. While office capacity reached its lowest point since Spring 2021 (3%) at the start of the month, that number crept up to 12% by the end of the month – a positive sign for workplaces. In fact, the average number of days people worked from the office increased in January (4.1 vs. 3.7 in December 2021).
Despite the dip in overall regional attendance, desk bookings held firm and the employee bounce rate decreased to 18% compared to the previous month (23%).
Despite increased safety guidelines and protocols in many geographies, there is a sharp increase in the volume of people working from the office daily. The November 2021 data showed 'The Great Return' and January is following this pattern.
Evidence Suggests Employees Want Work-from-Anywhere (WFA)
We all remember when anguished cries of “People won’t want to work!” and “We need our employees in the office!” captured headlines. We now know that hybrid work actually had a positive impact on productivity.
A more flexible approach to work caused a global conversation around the nature of work in the modern era. How did employees respond? Record productivity, of course.
The central tenet of a vibrant workplace environment is trust between employers and workers. Employees are no longer shy about telling employers what they want. It’s time to start listening.
Our dataset highlights the power of this trust in areas outside of productivity as well.
Health checkpoint data has remained relatively consistent over the past 12 months. Interestingly, checkpoint pass rates followed an unexpected trend during the late summer Delta surge in July and August: they rose. So while infection rates were high, workplace numbers dropped significantly.
These aggregate health checkpoint pass rates indicate people self-regulate and avoid the office outright in times of increased case rates.
We saw this same trend resurface in January. As Omicron swept through North America, checkpoint pass rates were near all-time highs. This indicates that employees are successfully self-regulating and working remotely to avoid spreading COVID within their workplace.
Europe Continues to Shy Away from Office Return
While North America is trending upwards, the inverse is happening internationally, particularly in Europe. According to the data, Europe saw its second straight month with a 19% decrease in employees using the office.
Europe was also one of two regions (APAC) that saw an increase (25%) in their employee bounce rate from December to January. Comparatively, North America stands at 15% while Latin America is at 8%.
Office visitors are back . . . (kind of)
Employees and external guest rates strongly aligned in 2021.
January saw an increase to 23% guest visit cancellation rate, the highest mark we’ve seen since October 2021.
Customer visits did see an uptick in January, indicating that companies are green-lighting business travel again and opening their doors to friendly faces.
Visitors are a critical part of your company’s ecosystem. As employees settle in and new hybrid work routines start to crystallize, lots of offices are starting to think about guests.
It’s time to create a more vibrant workplace
We will never go back to the offices of 2019 but that doesn’t mean we need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.
The data shows us that workplaces are ready to resume some of their most crucial roles: collaboration, connection and community. To make a vibrant workplace a reality, leaders need to keep their eyes on the overall culture of their workplaces and how they communicate their intended outcomes. Here are a few starting points:
1. Revive collaboration in the office
The office isn’t dead, it’s just going through a re-invention. Now is the time for leaders to remind teams of what the workplace has to offer.
While the media has largely publicized this as an employer vs. employee conversation, the reality is that both in-office work AND remote work have great benefits for employees AND leaders.
2. Commit to continuous communication
The pandemic continues to teach us that the only constant is change. That level of change necessitates constant communication, without it you risk isolating team members. Leaders need to ensure all employees, regardless of location, are aware of any changing circumstances, whether that’s inside the office, or out.
3. Solicit regular feedback from your teams
Why guess when you could just ask? Your employees are the only voices that matter when it comes to creating a workplace strategy that sticks.
Organizations should have regular periods where they collect feedback and use those responses to inform their plans. Businesses that don’t listen risk losing top talent to companies that do.
Do you have the tools to ensure a successful transition to flexible work? Schedule a free Robin demo today to find out.