What do employees seek in a post-COVID workplace environment? A survey finds out

Flexible work practices and hygiene remain as the two key aspects of returning to work globally




Working from home for months, people’s work habits seem to have changed a lot. They are trying to adapt themselves to the ‘new normal’. But as many companies around the world are calling their employees back, how prepared are they to give them a safe workspace?

Space Matrix, a multinational workplace design consultancy firm based in Singapore, along with a US-based design firm Interior Architects, has released a study called ‘A Changed World: What Happens When We Return to the Office Survey‘ mainly to focus on flexibility and hygiene as two aspects of a post-COVID workplace environment. It was found in the report — that analysed data collected from approx 2,500 respondents based in the US and APAC including Singapore and India — that flexible work practices and hygiene remain as the two key aspects of returning to work globally. About 77 per cent and 76 per cent in US and Asia, respectively, voted for a reassessment of working-from-home policies, and 67 per cent and 73 per cent, respectively, thought it was wise to invest in communication technologies to support business continuity.

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It was also found that while 63 per cent and 60 per cent in the US and Asia, respectively, felt it was important to address a phased re-entry into the work environment, about 54 per cent of the respondents from the US and 56 per cent in Asia, wished to establish an enhanced and increased ‘cleaning frequency’. In terms of long-term considerations, most respondents favoured reassessment of company policies or creating a policy around working from home as an option going forward.

“Where tactical measures are prevalent in planning for a safe return to the office, we see organisations taking a more visionary approach with blue key thinking for the long term. Discussions revolve around questions such as: What role will remote work play going forward? What must employers do to ensure safe environments whilst building resilient workplace cultures, social capital and continued innovation? How do employers leverage their organisational strengths to engage employees and guide the change — whatever new workplace strategies take form. The emphasis will be on where and how work is done and how technology will augment creation and innovation, emerging as a key enabler in the future workplace scenario,” Su-San Tan, Director, Workplace Strategy & Insights, was quoted as saying in a statement to the press.

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The survey also revealed that the top-ranked factor missed while working from home is face-to-face interaction with colleagues. While there was a similar percentage of positive comments (around 55 per cent) from respondents in both the US and Asia on what surprised them about their ability to do collaborative work from home, the breakup was different. While a clear majority in the US were positive about how well they were able to quickly adapt to working from home and collaborating virtually, Asian respondents were most positive about using technology to collaborate, on how it enabled greater learning experiences and camaraderie.

Done over the month of April — when most countries were in the midst of lockdown — the survey found that despite cultural differences between participants — given the diverse geographies — and contrary to expectations, the results were surprisingly similar for most questions, suggesting that both the human response to work during the pandemic and the reaction to an awaited return to office are more universal than anticipated.

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