Six Reasons Why WFH Forever Won't Work For Everyone

Remote work was on the rise even prior to COVID-19, having increased 91% over the last 10 years in the U.S. and now representing 3.4% of the national workforce. Many companies even offer telecommuting as an employee benefit to support workplace flexibility.

It goes without saying that we think it's incredibly valuable to incorporate flexibility into every aspect of business. Flexibility increases employee engagement, productivity, and happiness, which in turn all contribute to higher revenue and continued success.

Since COVID-19 has upended our collective way of life, a heated debate has arisen about the future of the workplace, and whether it should remain a permanent fixture of the modern business experience at all. Now is the time to reexamine everything we’ve gained (and stand to lose) from our offices.

Here are six points that help articulate the value a workspace holds for companies employees and culture:

1) In-Person Meetings Improve Business Relationships and the Quality of Ideas

A majority of employees (84%) say they prefer in-person meetings, according to data aggregated by Virgin.

This doesn't come as a surprise — think back to the last time you were in a room with collegues (even if it feels like a lifetime ago). You might remember the power of strong eye contact, positive body language, and human connection.

Many employees think that in-person interactions can do wonders for creativity and collaboration. Just look at the data:

  • 85% believe they build stronger, more meaningful business relationships
  • 77% prefer the ability to read body language and facial expressions
  • 75% cite more social interaction, and the ability to bond with co-workers/clients
  • 49% say in-person meetings allow for more complex strategic thinking
  • 44% believe it’s a better environment for tough, timely decision-making

2) Strong Office Design Increases Employee Happiness and Productivity

A person's immediate surroundings and settings have a huge impact on how they intrpret the world, not to mention their health and well-being. There's a wealth of data and science that shows the effect that various colors, patterns, and aesthetics have on our brains.

How does that translate to the workplace? When executed properly, the physical design of a space can lead to a less stressful and more productive atmostphere.

According to a report highlighted by CMI Workplace, strong office design can make employees up to 33 per cent happier at work.

If people are happier in their workspace, they are less likely to feel stressed out and anxious about their jobs.

3) Engaged Workplaces Perform Better

Brands that are thoughtful enough to ensure their phsyical surroundings and interior design complement the values and ideals espoused by the company tend to have better company culture.

We all know the famous Drucker line: "culture eats strategy for breakfast." Culture is developed through both the tangible (office design, amenities, perks) and the intangible (behaviors, attitudes, values)

Smart companies think about using their workspacws to impress customers, inspire employees, and lure applicants.

According to Deloitte, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.

Moreover, highly engaged workplaces see a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales, according to Gallup.

4) On-Site Benefits Encourage Employee Retention

Companies have increasingly been investing more in the design and experience of their offices as a means to keep their employees productive and engaged. Payroll and real estate are typically a company's largest two expenses, so it's no surprise that many companies are ensuring these investments complement each other.

A more recent design trend has been the "amenitization" of offices, and for good reason. 93% of workers in the tech industry said they would stay longer at a company that offered healthier workspace benefits.

These high-demand options range from wellness rooms, fitness benefits, and healthy lunch options to sit-stand desks and ergonomic seating.

While many of these communal spaces will be redesigned as a result of the pandemic, they will still be part of a company's office experience in the years to come.

5) Friendships Increase Employee Retention and Engagement

Colleagues who become friends usually build their relationships in the office. While some collegial bonding may happen at the local watering hole, it's usually solidified at work.

And, as it turns out, employee friendships at work make workers seven times more engaged in their work than if they didn’t have a close friend. Gallup found that employees are less likely to look for new jobs if they have friends at work because they feel more connected to their coworkers.

Gallup also suggests that close relationships and the time we spend socializing make us happier and healthier. They’ve correlated each hour of social time with lowered stress, a higher chance of having a good day, and a more positive attitude toward the job. Just three hours of social time reduces the chances of a bad day by 10%.

6) Many Workers Prefer Working in an Office

While some of us may work from home indefinitely or even permanently, many more are chomping at the bit to get back to some semblance of normalcy. For many, that means a return to the office.

Prolonged social distancing, isolation, and WFH mandates have naturally caused many of us to go stir-crazy. While we certainly expect the percentage of employees who work from home post-pandemic will undoubtedly rise, it won't be 100%.

41% of workers who have been doing their jobs from home during the pandemic would prefer to return to their workplace or office to work, as they did before the crisis, according to Gallup.

One thing is for sure: the new way of working will be hybrid, flexible, and highly adaptable. If we've learned anything from all of this, it's the importance of flexibility in times of uncertainty. While we expect a lot to change post-pandemic, we don't think the office is going anywhere. And for most companies, that's a good thing!