2020 COVID-19 Workplace Recovery Survey + Findings
With a reputation for excellence dating back to 1913, we believe that architecture and design will play a critical role in workplace wellness as the world adapts and begins to rebuild from the global pandemic. To bolster our workplace wellness expertise, in early August of 2020 Potter Lawson sent out a succinct survey to approximately 750 business, government, and other organizational decision-makers. The findings from our survey are outlined below.
Question 1: Work From Home Policy
Question: What is your current policy on staff working for home?
Interestingly, only 13.9% of respondents are currently requiring all staff to work from home, with 17.2% responding that all their staff are currently in the workplace. The remaining organizations have a mix of softer work from home policies, with the largest percentage allowing staff (as opposed to encouraging staff) to work from home full time (36.7%).
Question 2: Returning to the Workplace
Question: If your staff are working from home, what is your metric to bring them back to the workplace?
Most companies had multiple requirements for returning to work as evidenced by the total percentage of responses (168.7%). The largest influence for returning to the workplace is the lifting of location restrictions and mandates. Ultimately, lowering infection rates, access to a viable vaccine, and rising immunity rates are close followers, which naturally should also trigger lifts in public restrictions and mandates.
The interesting take-away was the percentage of companies who stated they are never going back to the office (4.2%). Of those responses, some of these companies were working remotely prior to COVID-19 and one was considering a partial return with some employees working on-site and some remote. This would mean that only 2.2%, are planning to stay 100% remote as a new operational strategy.
Question 3: Workplace Health + Safety Changes
Question: For those working on site during the pandemic, what additional steps have you taken to make the workplace safer?
Another place leaders are taking a multi-pronged approach with total responses of companies taking action of 319.6%. Only 1.1% have made no changes.
The big winners in this category were masks (80%) and additional sanitizing (86.7%). Bear in mind that at the time of this survey, there was a mandatory mask order in effect for indoor spaces other than homes in the State of Wisconsin, which will have an effect on this result. A close third place was providing additional space for employees (68.9%), with about a third (32.8%) also providing physical barriers between employees. HVAC-based infection controls came in with a fifth of companies having implemented this in some fashion (21.7%). These varied, but were mostly focused on three strategies: ionization, UV, and increased air exchanges.
We found the “other” comments on this question interesting as well (10.6%). Many focused on education of employees, others talked about creating new office rules such as limiting huddle rooms to 1 person or removing communal coffee service, and some found novel ways to clean the office, such as a UV-C disinfection robot.
Question 4: Long-Term Workplace Changes
Question: Post-COVID, what long-term changes do you anticipate making to your workplace?
This question truly drove this survey…at the core we are passionate about helping shape what the future of the workplace will look like. Interestingly, our survey revealed that more than one third of respondents plan on making no permanent changes once the crisis has passed (35.3%).
Of the remaining responses, organizations are again looking at a multi-pronged approach. For the architecture, building, and property management sectors, the interesting responses include; providing additional room for employee distancing, meaning more real estate space (29.9%) and rearranging existing space for employee distancing (35.3%), again signaling a need for more space per employee than pre-pandemic. We’re glad to see smart safe strategies being considered heavily by respondents.
Summary . . . Planning for the Future!
We’ve been asked by many what we think the future of the workplace will look like. While nobody in the industry has a crystal ball we are confident that, yes, the vast majority will be returning the workplace and each client approach will be a little different. Some won’t make any long-term changes, but we believe our conversations of reduced square feet per person are a thing of the past. We see a future of thoughtful spacing, intentional sizing of collaboration spaces to allow social distancing while supporting the human connection that we have identified as a critical function of the workplace and something work from home simply cannot offer, while also focusing on low-touch options and increased infection controls. From flashy headlines to opinion pieces online, we are happy to bring real data from real organizations currently weathering the market. In conclusion, we will come out of this pandemic with a shifted view on what a healthy workplace looks like, how we function within it, and a new appreciation for the value of working together. We’re excited at what the future brings for workplace design and to continue helping our clients pivot and thrive post-pandemic. Do you have questions or want to talk more? Send us an email or give us a call.