The future of the workplace is hybrid, says global survey

From Gensler’s UK survey.

The future of the workplace is hybrid. The vast majority of employees are keen to return to the office post-pandemic, but not full time according to the Global Workplace Survey Comparison 2020, which has just been published by Gensler, the international architecture and planning firm.

“The office matters and is more relevant than ever,” said Janet Pogue McLaurin, survey team leader at the Gensler Research Institute. “It is clear from the results of our survey that the workplace has an important societal role as a place for diversity and human connection and it fosters a sense of purpose and belonging.”

The survey of 10,000 people in different industries, at all levels and of different generations in the US, UK, France and Australia, has been done since 2005 to study how the workplace is changing and how behaviours are shifting. This year it focused on the key question of where and how people want to work in a post-pandemic world.

There were marked differences in the last few months of lockdown and emergency measures to contain the spread of coronavirus. For example, when half of the population in the US, the UK and Australia was still working from home full-time, only 5% of French employees were working remotely and 64% had already gone back to the office full-time.

The survey shows that 72% of French workers rely on in-person collaboration across all industries, compared to 59% in the UK and 52% in the US. It also shows that, counter-intuitively, the more senior your position the more you rely on face-to-face interaction.

Broad international consensus on the future

When it comes to looking at the future, however, there is broad consensus and a similar outlook in all four areas of the world covered by the survey. Respondents agreed that working from home improves well-being, helps to focus and gives flexibility, but that the office is the best place to connect, collaborate and socialise with others.

“The conclusion is that most workers want a hybrid work model as they look to the future,” said Tim Pittmann of the Gensler Research Institute.

In France only 5% of workers want to return to the office full-time, while the percentage is 9% in Australia, 12% in the UK and 19% in the US. The reason given by this minority of workers is the long commute to work.

In all four areas, over two-thirds of people want a hybrid solution and they are evenly split between spending one or two days at home or three or four days at home.

The message the survey sends to landlords and companies is that “in order to encourage workers to come back, the office has to better than the home,” said Pittmann. “Post-pandemic, there is a clear shift to pragmatic solutions.”

Tenants across the world want a clean, safe space with good air quality and light. Outdoor space is valued, but the number-one request is parking, presumably because many are still reluctant to use public transport. In second and third place on tenants’ list is the availability of tea and coffee and of a tech help desk.

“There will be less density, less people in the office in the future but not necessarily less space,” said Pogue McLaurin. “The office will become an adaptable, hyper-flexible place like a convention centre for meetings, conferences and brainstorming sessions.”