Is Friendship the Top Reason People Want to Return to the Office?

Because of the pandemic, the past year has been a whirlwind as many people’s lives have been turned upside down. Many workers have transitioned to a remote workstyle and proven they can successfully complete their jobs from home,  so many employers are now considering permanent changes to the traditional 9 to 5, in-person office environment. Research and data have found it appears likely many companies will adopt a hybrid work model moving forward, where employees can split their time between home and the office. While employees have grown accustomed to the flexibility provided by working remotely, the overwhelming majority do want to return to the office in some capacity once it is safe to do so. For more specifics, you can read about Smartway2’s return to work survey by clicking here.  One reason why employees want to get back into the office is the need to socialize with coworkers.  While technology has enabled a smooth transition for meetings and communication, there is no replacement for face-to-face interaction and general camaraderie in an office. In fact, some research has shown that social interaction is one of the things people miss most about not going into the office.

Smartway2 enables organizations to take a data-driven approach to change by providing insights into how spaces, desks and other facilities are being used. To find out more request a demo with one of our experts.

The Numbers Don’t Lie

Smartway2’s Return to Work Survey that we mentioned above found that 92% of people do prefer a hybrid model when it comes to a post-pandemic work schedule. Furthermore, our data showed only 2% of people want to work in the office full-time and the remaining  6% want to continue working from home full-time.
Delving deeper, when asked in our survey, “what does the ‘work from home’ experience lack that an office can provide? ” the responses reflect the desire for in-person interaction: 37% responded with spontaneous collaboration and idea-sharing, while 40% said they miss sociability.
Twingate, a business that helps companies secure and manages access to their technology resources, conducted some research amid the pandemic about what employees miss most about the office. Twingate’s findings include that 94% of respondents missed at least one aspect of working in an office with 22% saying they miss something they did not think they would. Below are the specific results from Twingate’s survey:
  • 45% Social connections
  • 44% Human contact in general
  • 42% Clear work/home separation
  • 41% Face-to-face meetings
  • 35% Lunch with coworkers
  • 35% Collaborating in person
  • 35% Casual run-ins with others
  • 33% My workspace
  • 32% Office banter
  • 31% Learning from others

People miss their co-workers

A recent Forbes article by Tracy Brower, sociology PhD and author, addressed what employees are missing by working from home rather than the office:  “Work is fundamentally social, Whether you’re a social butterfly or a confirmed introvert, you need some level of connection with others to be happy and healthy. Aspects of work which link you with others can help you achieve this.” According to Brower, “Beyond needs for purpose, performance and variety, one of the most important things people want is their people—colleagues, coworkers and teammates. We miss them for lots of good reasons—all of them social and none of them fluffy.”
A 2020 CNBC Make it article, written by work reporter Jennifer Liu, reinforces many of the same points made by Brower. Commercial real estate firm JLL’s chief product officer, Cynthia Kantor, is quoted in the article saying, “It’s becoming clear socializing is important to people’s productivity, as well as career outlook and development opportunities…’ She adds these common areas and the casual relationships they encourage are especially crucial for people early in their career. Young professionals with smaller networks lose out the most by not being able to make in-person company connections…”

Hybrid- the wave of the future

As we referenced earlier, many experts are predicting a shift towards a hybrid-work schedule. At Smartway2 we have written extensively on this subject, breaking down just about every element necessary for those considering the idea.
In a recent post on how hybrid work will transform your business this year, we shared many benefits of a hybrid work approach, including flexibility, increased productivity and the ability to cut costs after re-assessing office needs. That full post is linked here, but we will share below a list put together by leading global technology company Barco, that we found particularly insightful:
  1. Public health – Barco explains that hybrid work environments help to keep employees safe when it comes to catching and spreading COVID-19. When people do go back to work, the office is less populated and social distancing policies must be enacted. While improving sanitary working conditions has become a heightened focus during the pandemic, public health benefits of hybrid work are also relevant for when the common cold, flu or any other virus is prevalent among employees.
  2. Productivity – Barco cites hybrid work environments as enabling companies to share technology with employees remotely that they usually only provide within the office. This equips employees with on-demand technology access when they need it so they can accomplish work remotely rather than in the office.
  3. Collaboration – By re-introducing some office work into the equation, employees are naturally able to get the social interaction they crave and foster collaboration that has been difficult during the pandemic while most people have worked remotely.
  4. Work-Life Balance – Being able to pick and choose work environments can help to relieve stress. Barco writes, “There is time for focused work, decision-making, intense meeting and following seminars, but also for spending time with family, helping the kids with homework, walking the dog or taking that yoga class.”
  5. Save Time – Hybrid work means people can reduce commuting times by setting a schedule based on what works for their individual circumstances rather than relying on a conventional 9-5 approach.

Making the most of in-office time

If your office is planning to switch to some type of hybrid schedule, it is likely you will want to optimize your time spent in the office seeing and meeting with the coworkers you’ve missed interacting with the most during the pandemic. 
At Smartway2 we offer an option to “find a friend,” when booking your desk. What does this mean? When using our desk booking software you can search for a particular colleague and then book your desk next to theirs.
Our system allows you to do the following 3 things quickly and easily:
  • Search for your ideal desk using advanced filters.
  • Use our ‘book here and now’ feature to locate a desk nearby.
  • Pre-book your desk on-the-move via our mobile app.

Smartway2 is a workplace experience that boosts productivity, collaboration and space utilization, by enabling employees to book everything they need to do their best work, from conference rooms and desks to parking, AV equipment or a catered lunch.

Stefania Vatidis

Stefania Vatidis

Last updated March 26, 2021