What is recent workplace data analysis telling us?

June 25, 2022
Written by: by Ian Ashley
Perspectives & Insights​ 
What’s Next?

Interpretation of Steelcase's Research

“At a CREW UK Coffee Connects hosted on 24 May, Kira Hafner and Ian Ashley presented new Steelcase global research, exploring what people need and expect in today’s era of hybrid work. The intel collected from nearly 5,000 employees in 11 countries reaffirmed the importance of the office and that people who like working from their office are significantly more engaged, productive, and connected to their company’s culture.

Steelcase researchers found that people who like working from their office are 33% more engaged, 30% more connected to an organization’s culture, 9% more productive and 20% less likely to leave.

Steelcase gathered engagement, connection, and productivity scores from a universally accepted set of social science questions for each outcome. The issue of measuring productivity specifically was discussed amongst event attendees. It was highlighted that what ‘productivity’ means can vary from person to person and from job-role to job-role.
“I think we need to move away from measuring people’s “productivity” at this point in time. Right now, people don’t want to be measured on their productiveness. We, in the long run / playing the infinite game rather than the finite game, will have stronger and measurable success (productivity) as organizations and people if we stop treating our employees as commodities.”
Sarah Brown, Director,
TP Bennett
Perspectives and Insights
Despite the above findings, the research also indicates that globally most workers still prefer working from home. 70% of the population now have a dedicated workspace at home, whilst 51% work in an open plan setting when in the office. The difference in the level of control people have over their privacy at home compared to the office, may contribute to why 45% of people prefer to work at the dining room table or in their home office.

An open and engaging conversation developed amongst event attendees around why this might be, and how the conflict could potentially be resolved.  Real estate professionals offered their own insights and findings about hybrid work.

Emily D’Enrico, Associate Director at M3 Consulting commented “We undertook a number of employee surveys as we returned to the office post-lockdown and whilst it was widely recognised that there are morale, learning and development, cultural and collaboration benefits to working in the office, this required a critical mass of people to actually come in – so we had to consider how to make the office a more attractive and productive place to work than home.

One of the themes that came out of the surveys was the conflict between our office becoming busier and noisier, and attendance at virtual meetings. Rather than looking at a full office redesign, we agreed to make small changes such as supplying noise cancelling headphones and installing single person meeting pods where you could join a virtual meeting in a quiet location, without taking up a whole meeting room”.

What’s Next?

Certainly, collaboration and staying connected to other people have been difficult during the pandemic. The opportunities to work side-by-side, where everyone can participate equally, have been constrained.  It’s no surprise when people need to work with others, they prefer to be in the office. Which is why, as organizations rethink the role of the workplace in an era of hybrid work, some say the office will become a destination for collaboration and bringing people together, assuming people will do individual focus work at home.
Here is the problem, this is not how work happens. Weeks aren’t neatly divided into collaboration days and focus days — people do both group and individual work throughout their day. Highly effective collaboration actually requires an ebb and flow of working together and alone. And, for most people, the commute makes it impractical to shift between the office and home throughout the day, which means people will struggle to be productive if the workplace doesn’t provide the access to privacy that has become even more important to people during the pandemic.
The reason people prefer to do individual work from home may be because they need more privacy than their current open plan office offers them — which is what most people have — especially at a time when they have focus work and an increasing amount of time spent on video interactions. Collaboration may draw people to the office, but if people can’t do individual focus work there as well, they will struggle to feel productive after they’ve made the commute.
“We don’t need to say goodbye to the open plan or benching. We just need to equip it differently.”
Caroline Kelly, WorkSpace Futures Manager
A final word from Ian on his interpretation of the Steelcase research:
“Through observing general behaviour and gathering anecdotal evidence during the early COVID era evolution of hybrid working, many projected that the office would become a ‘clubhouse’ where we gather to collaborate and connect with colleagues.

This recent Steelcase research suggests that the reality won’t be quite so straightforward. Workers and the places they work are far more nuanced and complex.

Already, employees are reacting against “do this here, and that there” protocols. We need spaces that enable us to implement all aspects of our personalities, work modes and emotions, all in one place.”