September 3, 2021

Returning to the Office – Part Two: What do employees want?

It’s been almost seven months since our post first discussing what a return to the office could look like for both businesses and employees. Since then, many people have returned to the office, with plenty of the World’s biggest companies either back or returning shortly

So what are employees thinking about on their return to the office?

For many, returning to the office is a huge blessing. They get to socialize, collaborate face-to-face and for those not fortunate enough to have home offices, return to a desk that isn’t in their dining room or lounge.

However, it’s also got staff thinking about workplace habits that they’d prefer others left at home. A recent survey of 1000 UK employees – 45% of whom said they were now more aware of poor workplace habits that at the start of the pandemic – highlighted the nations top five bugbears:


1 – Not hand washing after visiting the toilet – 42.9%

2 – Coming into work with a cough/ cold – 37.4

3 – Kiss greetings – 32.9%

4 – Hugs – 27.8%

5 – Keeping unwashed gym kit in the workplace – 26.5%


Now while there is an argument for each of these irritations that they should rest with the colleagues, it may also be worth considering how we can make office space most welcoming and comfortable for staff. We pride ourselves as one of the companies who have thought about this, and long before the pandemic. 

As mentioned in our previous post, office pods and the return to individual workspaces is definitely on the rise. This doesn’t end with desk space, either. Companies that decide hybrid remote or hybrid remote by exception (as McKinsey coins it) policies are the best way forward need to plan for how meeting rooms are best designed for splits in remote and physical attendees. 

  Above: Google’s Campfire Meeting Pods, designed to promote hybrid collaboration. 


Similarly, if a company decides to enforce the return to the office of all staff, there may be pressure to create workspaces that encourage fewer close-quarter interactions and make a concerted attempt to make the offices appealing environments. People need jobs but have also had a ‘furlough’ experience like no workforce before them to step back and review what they want out of a place of work in the context of their wider lives.

Closing thoughts 

While there has been a debate as to what hybrid work looks like, there is a sense that returning to office – to business and life as usual – is something to be celebrated. 

But as remote flexibility has soared, office-centric businesses may want to ensure staff feel as comfortable as possible on their return. 


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