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Return to Office Survey Results: Should Your Company be Remote-First?

virtual work, video meeting
Belynda Cianci
Published on

With states and municipalities starting to soften stay-at-home restrictions and re-open their local economies, your return to the office may be near on the horizon. If you used a COVID-19 employee feedback survey for your office, you probably have a considerable amount of data that can help inform your return-to-work planning.

How can you take those findings and use them as actionable feedback for your return to work game plan? 

We explored some of the statistics and results from other workplace experience surveys conducted in the wake of COVID-19 and offer advice on using the data from your surveys to ease the transition back into the workplace for your employees.

Remote work: Studies and findings

A wealth of data emerged in the weeks after stay-at-home orders; while some findings followed expected trends, others were surprising. While nearly everyone agrees that the coronavirus will dramatically reshape the way we work and how we feel about the physical workplace, there are different perspectives on what exactly those changes will be.

According to a study conducted by Global Workplace Analytics, featuring data from over 3,000 respondents:

  • Though the move to home-based work was unexpected after an initial adjustment period employees reported a positive experience with WFH. 68% of respondents feel successful working from home, and 77% of respondents feel fully productive there. They report gaining back more than a half-hour from unwanted interruptions.
  • Managers as well report that (outside of normal adjustment road-bumps) productivity and communication remained largely unchanged. This said areas such as remote management and collaboration needed improvement.  
  • The majority of employees are interested in some level of remote work availability as part of their workweek. U.S. employees want to continue working from an average of 2.5 days a week (2 days/week globally). Only 6% of respondents reported no interest in working from home on a regular basis.
WFH finding from Global Workplace Analytics

Corporate communication platform Slack also had interesting findings, such as:

  • While one in four respondents said they already worked from home pre-COVID, those for whom remote work was new reported technology and communications struggles. 
  • As time went on, however, those workers’ quickly adapted to the tech stack, communications, and collaborative challenges to WFH effectively. 
  • Likewise, while a large number of new remote workers struggled with their sense of belonging, over time, 47% of respondents reported strong feelings of belonging after the WFH transition.
WFH finding from Global Workplace Analytics

These findings have provided statistical backing for anecdotal beliefs about remote and flexible work, and encouraged many companies — even giants such as Twitter, Square, and Salesforce — to re-examine their remote work policies in 2020 and beyond.

It seems policies to work entirely remote-first for the foreseeable future or even forever is a trending response among tech giants. Is that the best approach for your organization? Maybe, maybe not. While important to understand how the rest of the world is reacting, it’s essential to consider your organization’s unique needs and your peoples’ unique ways of working in the long term, not just in response to COVID-19.

How did your company adapt to remote work?

Every organization is different. Based on your state’s requirements, your industry, the job roles in your office, your back-to-the-workplace plan, and office design likely requires certain considerations.

For example, your people might function better in the office for certain tasks, without requiring 100% in-office hours. Your office density might make it necessary to stagger in-office days. In some cases, the data you uncover will help uncover what role remote work should play as you transition your people back.

When analyzing the data from your own transition survey, keep in mind how your particular company needs and challenges will figure in. For instance: 

  • How successfully were you able to re-create in-person collaboration digitally (through chat platforms such as Slack, visual collaboration tools like Mural, or project management apps such as Asana)?
  • How many of your employees have concerns about the return to the workplace, social distancing, etc.? 
  • What did your survey reveal about the desire or need for flexible or remote work options going forward? 
  • What was the overall experience for employees working from home? What did the survey reveal about ideas for improvement or adjustment?

Your office after COVID-19: Remote-first or not?

As mentioned, a handful of companies announced they plan to be “remote-first” organizations for the foreseeable future. While a trendy initiative, it likely isn’t the long-term solution for all post-COVID workplaces. In fact, many think the workplace may be more important now more than ever.

Tracey Brower from Forbes said it best:

“It’s tempting for companies to conclude the office is irrelevant. Perhaps commutes, conference rooms and coffee bars aren’t really that necessary after all. With billions invested in real estate and maintenance of the workplace, companies would be missing something if they weren’t at least asking questions about its necessity.

But not so fast. The office simply cannot go away. It is necessary on multiple levels—for our effectiveness, for our sanity, and for our humanity. It is not an all-or-nothing. It is not an either-or. Deleting the office altogether is not the best option. The workplace offers all kinds of critical value—and it simply cannot—must not—go away.”

"Why the Office Simply Cannot Go Away" - Forbes

She goes on to outline five critical reasons why the workplace simply isn’t going anywhere.

Seems the question isn't "to remote or not" but rather, "how remote should we be?"

If you're grappling with how big a part remote work should play in your return to office plan, chat with one of our workplace experts today.

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Return to Office Report 2024