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The Real Reasons Why Some Workers Want to Work In-Person

February 24, 2022 | Workplace

And How Facility Teams Can Support Them

In the two years since the COVID-19 pandemic fundamentally changed the workforce as we know it, one aspect has been stressed over and over: most workers want to go remote, even after daily life returns to normal. But there is one nuance that tends to get lost in this discussion: the segment of the workforce that, for one reason or another, wants to work in-person, for all or part of the work week. 

That basic desire goes beyond the professions whose nature of work cannot be accomplished online. In reality, in-person work motivations can vary drastically, and all of them impact how employers should manage their workspace. Facility and space management teams who can acknowledge and accommodate this segment can gain a major advantage in making their workplace more desirable, and build a stronger culture over time.

4 In-Person Work Motivations that Surface Across Industries

Working remotely might be convenient for many, but it’s important not to underestimate the drawbacks that come with it. Millions of workers are motivated to work in-person, or some variation of hybrid work, for reasons that range from the need for social interaction to the importance of truly concentrating.(1) Each of the four core reasons for this frame of mind are discussed in more detail below.

1. The Need for Social Interaction

The past two years have been, by many, defined by isolation. The dangers of a pandemic, combined with mandated remote work and schooling, has forced an entire global workforce to stay home and avoid social interactions.

However, those social interactions are crucial to the mental well-being of most people. COVID-19 was closely associated with a rise in diagnosed cases of depression and anxiety for people of all ages, often attributed to fewer human interactions.

For employees who desire to go back to in-person work, raising the level of social interactions is a central reason. Being able to talk face-to-face with co-workers once again, even in the most mindless small talk, becomes an important piece in rebuilding our social environment.

2. The Desire for True Mentorship

As social interactions decreased in the past two years, so did the mentor-mentee relationships that had become so central to the modern workplace. It’s difficult to train and provide advice to someone with only instant messaging, email, and video calls available. 

Employees who want to go back to work are tired of the resulting trial-and-error method of learning new skills and processes. They’re looking for the ability to reconnect with their mentors and mentees, rebuilding crucial relationships that ultimately benefit the careers and social well-being of both parties.

3. The Longing for Deep Concentration

Staying focused is frequently cited to be among the biggest challenges when working from home. Constant interruptions from family members, or even the simple ability to work from your bedroom, can make it difficult to concentrate on in-depth tasks that require your full attention.

The ability to concentrate fully, then, is the third real reason for the motivation to return to in-person work. A private work environment can certainly help, but is most easily accomplished at a place of employment. That longing for deep concentration will only become stronger with each interruption faced at home.

4. The Possibilities of True Collaboration

As mentioned above, remote means of communication are almost by nature limited. They preclude the daily, informal talk that can so often lead to collaboration and breakthroughs. As psychology professor Dr. Art Markman puts it in the Harvard Business Review

The physical workplace enables moments of serendipity that can move projects along. You might bump into a colleague while thinking about a problem and ask a question that leads to a new and surprising solution. Maybe you grab a cup of coffee with a few coworkers and that leads to a new product or service. Or you notice a colleague struggling with a task and give them some tips that save a lot of time. We may not miss those moments when they’re not happening, but they can have a significant positive impact on our individual success, not just the success of the company.

How the In-Person Work Style Desires Can Inform the Modern Workplace

The pace of change in the modern workplace is breathtaking. As some workers choose to remain at home, others are pushing harder for a way to return to work. That, in turn, makes designing a workplace that accounts for both sides of the equation absolutely crucial.

Millions of workers around the globe still value in-person work, for a variety of reasons. Organizations who can accommodate these preferences can take a leading role in the global war for talent, offering a thought-through experience that accounts for varying preferences. 

Gensler research suggests three core design trends, informed by these in-person work motivations, that shape the ideal modern workplace: (5) 

  1. Resilient buildings, which leverage products for more socially, technologically, and environmentally responsible building solutions.
  2. A focus on well-being and inclusivity, focusing on elements like better indoor air quality, biophilic design, gender-neutral restrooms, and more to keep the workforce healthy and draw more (and better) workers. 
  3. An increasing demand for quality experiences in the workplace, focused largely around more flexible attendance policies, modern and comfortable common spaces, and physical spaces designed for collaboration and mentorship.

Put differently, the need for a modern and beneficial work environment is not going away by any perceived move to remote work. For the millions of workers who prefer in-person work, creating positive physical experiences needs to remain a core goal for employers across industries.

Recommendations for Workplace Amenities Going Forward

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many societal changes. But one thing remains clear: focusing on a well-designed, responsive workplace is as relevant today as it was 5 years ago. In fact, due to an increasing talent shortage spanning countless industries, it might even be rising in importance. 

The key, then, is approaching the design, use, and reuse of buildings and properties in a way that maximizes opportunity and aligns to the needs of these audiences. Building in such a way will set apart businesses, especially for talent that continues to thrive in an in-person work environment. 

Gridd® low-profile adaptive raised flooring makes the evolving environment of the in-person workplace much more adaptable. In fact, Gridd flooring is actually moveable because it doesn’t attach to the building. This feature makes it possible to move a business to a new room, campus or city, while retaining the benefits of a flexible workspace.

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