Returning for Good, a Workplace Insights Report

But employees report that their current offices aren't enabling them to do their best work

Returning for Good

Employees’ career advancement prospects are in question if they don’t return to the office, say the vast majority of U.S. employers (88%) in a new study, Returning for Good, a Workplace Insights Report by global workplace creation experts Unispace. Nearly 4 in 5 (79%) of business leaders say they have communicated to employees that the opportunity for promotions, pay raises and bonuses will be limited for those who are not in the office. Employers are also being more candid about how working remotely may hinder current performance – 83% of leaders plainly state that those who attend meetings virtually will have a lower share of voice in the conversation than those in the office. These are several of the ways that US employers are putting a renewed emphasis on the importance of the physical workplace (and employees’ presence in that workplace) in driving business performance.

Office Mandates Drive Attendance, Erode Recruitment

According to the survey, 82% of US employees revealed that their current days in the workplace were mandated by their employer. This has resulted in more than half (57%) of office workers across the country reporting that they are going to the office four or more days per week (with an average 3.6 days in the office per week). However, the study also indicates that this, alone, may not be a sustainable strategy for employers when it comes to talent retention and recruitment – half (50%) of employers with office mandates report a higher-than-expected level of turnover, and a quarter (27%) are finding it difficult to hire as a result of workplace attendance policies. Might a four-day work week be a bridge to address this gap? The majority of both employers (80%) and employees (86%) say they are interested in trialing a 4-day work week.

“We can see that employers are clearly emphasizing the value of the workplace, but this, by itself, may not be enough to drive successful employee engagement and performance,” said Ryan Caffyn-Parsons, CEO, Unispace, Americas. “What our data also highlights is that employers may be missing an opportunity to better define the purpose of their office and how this can best enable their employees’ full work ecosystems.”

Employers and employees disagree whether current offices enable best work 

According to the survey, 81% of U.S. employees feel loyalty to their employer, so it begs the question, how can organizations tap this goodwill to find a workplace solution that is a win for both parties? One place to start is to acknowledge the misconceptions on both sides about the utility of the office. The vast majority of U.S. employers (89%) are confident that their current office is set up to allow people to be productive, which is at odds with what employees believe. Due to regular interruptions and a high number of meetings, more than half (52%) of employees say they struggle to carry out their core role in their current office environment.

According to the study, employees are looking for the following amenities in an office:

  • Dedicated workspace: Employees indicated a general concern for lack of privacy in the workplace, with 28% stating that they dislike this element of the office, while a further 22% felt more effective in a quiet home environment. To that end, 86% of employees revealed that having an assigned desk space would make them more inclined to increase their days in the workplace.
  • A place for “productive socialization.” A third of employees (33%) say that they enjoy the socialization aspect of the office and like the opportunity to collaborate.
  • Reimbursement for office-related costs: A high proportion of the workforce indicated that free lunch options (83%) and paid travel (81%) would encourage them into the office.

“The workplace has the power to be a magnet for innovation and community. Employees and employers alike recognize ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation’ can’t be scheduled into the calendar – these critical business functions often happen spontaneously, so offering distinct spaces that facilitate learning, collaboration, and socialization can help create a clear purpose for the office that fuels employee engagement,” said Caffyn-Parsons. “By understanding what their employees value and need to do their best work in the office, businesses have the opportunity to make their workplaces a critical tool in driving their brand and culture, retaining workers’ loyalty, and building a more effective workforce.”

Methodology for Returning for Good, a Unispace Global Workplace Insights Report

Research was conducted in partnership with Opinium Research between 3 April 2023 and 14 April 2023. The survey included 9,500 employees and 6,650 business leaders from across 17 countries worldwide – including 1,500 US employees in companies 50+ employees and 1,500 senior decision makers in companies 50+ employees in the US. Care was taken to ensure that the geographic and demographic characteristics of the populations surveyed are properly represented.

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