Many Americans are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to pandemic-era restrictions, however, this leaves many with the following question:
What does the future hold for America’s office workers after over a year of remote work and what will the “workplace of the tomorrow” look like?
While we’re not fortune tellers, one way to predict the future is to understand people’s work-from-home environments and their experiences over the past year.
We surveyed over 1,000 Americans across the US on their remote workspaces, what it would take for them to feel comfortable returning to work in an in-person office, and what an ideal work environment truly looks like.
Working from Home
We began by asking our survey respondents about the work-from-home setups they had adjusted to over the past year. Fifty-nine percent work from a dedicated work desk while some find themselves in less desirable spots, working from the sofa (11%), bed (8%), or even being forced to work from their own garages (2%). With 50% of respondents saying that they work up to 9 hours from their workstations, it looks like Americans spent a lot of time working in uncomfortable spaces lover the past year.
When it comes to what they’re currently working with in their work-from-home setups, 70% of respondents work from a dedicated laptop, but only 21% are working from a standard, fixed-height desk.
Many Americans found themselves very suddenly working from home over the past year, resulting in remote workspaces that are far from ideal.
While most have the essentials like a laptop, mouse, and keyboard, respondents found that they were missing parts of their workstations that, well, could easily be found in-office!
Respondents reported mostly wanting external dual monitors (25%), a laptop stand (24%), office chairs (23%), and adjustable desks (23%) – and unsurprisingly, all of the missing equipment helps office workers work much more comfortably.
When asked how much they’d spend to fix their remote workspaces, $1,000 was the cap for most respondents, begging the question:
Should employers have to pay for remote workstations?
Eighty-one percent or respondents certainly think so, saying that employers should indeed provide stipends for any home-office improvements. Interestingly, half of our respondents stated that their employers provided a pandemic stipend for home-office improvements.
When asked to reflect on their in-office workstations, respondents told us what’s currently there and what’s missing.
The majority of respondents are missing a laptop stand (21%), dual monitors (21%), and adjustable height desks (21%), all choices that indicate that their in-office workstations could definitely be a little more comfortable.
Both remote and in-office workstations may leave a little more to be desired when it comes to creature comforts, we asked respondents what they thought about remote and in-office pay and whether there should be any differences between the two.
Surprisingly, 43% of respondents believe that remote employees should be paid less than those who communite and work collaboratively. Additionally, when it comes to the freedom to move to a different state, 45% of respondents felt that if it’s the employee’s choice to go remote, then they should take a paycut.
The Workplace of the Future
American employees have had a lot of time to think over the past year and after 15+ months of wearing what they wanted, eating when they wanted, and no commutes had several respondents rethinking their boundaries around work-life balance…and it looks like American workers have spoken.
Over half (52%) said they would take a paycut to be able to continue working remotely full-time, and 45% said they would flat out quit if they couldn’t continue to work remotely.
Additionally, nearly half (49%) said they would quit if their workplaces didn’t at least move to a hybrid work environment – and for the uninitiated, “hybrid” work environments allow for more employee flexibility, offering both remote & in-office days each week.
A hybrid work environment provides the best of both worlds (remote and in-office) for employees and employers alike. When asked to think about the main benefits of each situation, respondents reported having more family time (27%) and a more flexible schedule (11%). In-office benefits include collaboration (30%) and higher productivity (11%).
Interestingly, both in-person and remote environments are less stressful (18%) and depending on where you’re working (the garage, anyone?) it makes sense! Also, it looks as if those who are pro in-office work view having a long commute as “me-time” (11%).
It looks like hybrid work environments can help serve the needs of most American employees, but how does the ideal post-pandemic office actually function? What should it look like? And what will it take Americans to feel comfortable going back?
When it comes to how the post-pandemic-hybrid-office-of-the-future actually functions, we asked respondents what would make them feel safer about returning to work.
The majority of respondents (43%) would prefer employers to stagger employee schedules: while some teams are working remotely, others will be in-office and vice versa. Making better use of outdoor spaces (34%), structural changes like increased air flow (33%), “ vaccination passports” (19%) made the top 10 list.
Additionally, respondents would love to bring the flexibility (57%) and quiet (45%) from home to the office and interestingly, having fewer and more productive meetings (30% and 27%, respectively) rounded out the list.
There have been countless arguments between employees and employers over the dreaded office layout and it looks like we’re no closer to a true consensus even in 2021. Open plan office spaces are the least popular with (17%) of votes while 22% of respondents would rather see a return to more “traditional” office spaces – aka an office with a door that closes!
A preference for a traditional office layout vs. the dreaded open plan may be associated with a desire to be just a little further apart physically – especially in light of the recent pandemic.
Forty-four percent of respondents that reported contractiving COVID-19 over the past year are convinced they got it from going to work.
Surprisingly, 70% of respondents felt that employees should have to tell their employers whether or not they’ve elected to be vaccinated and 72% feel that employers should require that employees provide proof of vaccination in order to come back to the office.
It’s certainly been a year of changes and adjustments and it’s clear that changes to how we work and where we work are on the horizon. Whatever your preferences are, there are benefits to both home-office and in-person workspaces and if you’re headed toward a hybrid environment – enjoy the best of both worlds!
Between May 28 – May 4, 2021, we polled 1,378 Americans. Respondents were 49 percent female, 51 percent male, and ranged in age from 19 to 70, with an average age of 37.
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