A report released by Steelcase shows employees in the Asia Pacific region have enjoyed some aspects of remote working including the lack of commute and work-life balance, however isolation has driven a desire to return to the office. Steelcase’s report also revealed employees’ new expectations for their post-COVID workplace with anxiety about disease transmission remain high as their leaders look to offer more flexible and safe workplace policies.
According to Steelcase’s “Changing Expectations and the Future of Work” report, conducted throughout the pandemic across 10 countries – including China, India and Australia – with more than 32,000 participants, safety concerns from poor work-from-home setups are among the many factors contributing to unsatisfactory experiences. Meanwhile, as organisations consider the future of the workplace for their employees, more flexible policies appear to be the norm.
Globally, the data indicates most employees expect to work from home one day a week or less post-COVID (55% 1 day a week or less; 28% 2-3 days and 17% 4-5 days). Health and safety is a top priority when employees return to the office:
• Adherence to safety protocols: 73.4%
• General cleanliness of the facility: 70.5%
• Indoor air quality: 70.7%
• Physical distancing/boundaries: 69.3%
• Overall density of people within the building: 65.4%
• Visitor protocols: 66.5%
• Safe access to food and beverages: 58.6%
• Availability of informal gathering areas: 56.9%
This is now driving a new need for updated safety standards to be developed to help prevent disease transmission in the workplace, as many businesses start to bring their workforce back to the office and begin to plan their future work experience.
These trends also reflect an ongoing need to revise workplace policies to include more choice and control for employees over where they work to foster greater collaboration and belonging after long periods of isolation. As a result, businesses are set to benefit from, expanded talent pools, and improve both employee attraction and retention.
Uli Gwinner, President of Steelcase Asia Pacific said “As companies begin to move beyond emergency infection control measures, they are looking at potential workspace changes and thinking about office space differently. This data can be used as a guide to help navigate this challenging time. What we are seeing from businesses is demand for flexible workspaces, which could help companies grow strategically to prepare for an unpredictable future.”
“Pre-pandemic, when businesses addressed safety in the workplace, their focus was primarily on occupational health and safety standards, and this is still really important. Poor work from home set-ups have resulted in injuries for some. Businesses will now need to take a multifaceted approach that focuses on mitigating the spread of disease and keeping their workplaces safe. Well-documented behavioural protocols, such as mask wearing and social distancing will go along way to achieving this.”
The report has shown that living through a life-altering experience has caused many to think about what’s most important to them and question assumptions about how the workplace should function. Some leading organisations in Hong Kong, China and other parts of Asia are listening and see this moment as an opportunity to reinvent their policies, offices and overall work experience. Organisations can seize this opportunity as a catalyst for reinventing their office not just a space for work, but a place that creates a community where people can feel a renewed sense of belonging, resilience and purpose.
The Steelcase report is available for download and can be accessed in the link below: https://www.steelcase.com/asia-en/research/articles/topics/work-better/changing-expectations-future-work/