Firms must do more to earn the commute of hybrid workers

hybrid work office designSteelcase has released a new global research report which reveals that outdated offices are no longer conducive to employees’ shifting needs for greater control, comfort, and privacy. The study found that if a workplace was made more in tune with shifting expectations, staff were more engaged, productive, connected to their organisation’s culture and less likely to leave.  The Steelcase report, The New Era of Hybrid Work, surveyed nearly 5,000 workers in 11 countries. The findings reveal that whilst 87 percent of respondents now spend at least some of their time working from the office as the threat of the pandemic recedes, six in ten (58 percent) prefer working from home. One of the most appealing attributes of a home for two-thirds (65 percent) of UK employees is that they have a dedicated space for work. Whereas in the office, the majority (59 percent) have desks in open areas, with minimal privacy.

As employers encourage people to work in the office, the office must work harder to meet these new needs. “It’s not enough to simply re-open the office doors and offer a hybrid work policy,” says Chris Congdon, director of global research communications at Steelcase. “Today’s office needs to earn the commute of employees. We’ve learned from those who have returned that their wants and needs have fundamentally shifted. The office needs to support the new ways people work while helping to create a sense of community where people belong and feel valued.”


Key findings:

When people like their office, they are more engaged, connected and likely to stay

With people leaving their jobs in record numbers, halting the great resignation is top of mind for many UK organisations. Steelcase analysed a wide range of factors that influence positive employee sentiments including considerations like commute time, income, and tenure with the company. The factor that most impacted engagement, productivity and feeling connected to the culture is when people like working from the office. Satisfaction with the office leads workers to feel 32 percent more engaged, 29 percent more connected to culture, and 27 percent less likely to leave.


People are willing to trade remote workdays for their own workspace at the office.

Research suggests more people want a ‘home-like’ environment at the office. This is because at home two-thirds (65 percent) of those surveyed have either a private office or a dedicated work zone. Yet, most workers in the UK (59 percent) are forced to sit in open-plan workspaces when they visit the office. Because of this, it is hardly surprising that so many say they would prefer to work from home where they are more likely to have a greater sense of control over their work experience and more privacy. Respondents even voiced a willingness to trade remote workdays for more privacy, comfort and control within the office. When asked to choose, more workers said they’d prefer to have an assigned desk in the office and work fewer days from home.


Access to private spaces is increasingly important as more work happens on video.

Staff want the office to help them collaborate with colleagues, focus when needed and be able to take a video call without disrupting others. When asked what they value most in the office, 60 percent of UK workers reported spaces for collaborating with in-person and remote employees, 59 percent said single-person enclaves for video calls and 61 percent said access to private spaces. This provides a dilemma for businesses. Because weeks are not neatly divided into collaboration days and focus days, it’s unlikely for many organisations to suggest workers stay home to focus on their work and come into the office for collaboration only. Highly effective collaboration requires an ebb and flow of working together and alone.

“Some have suggested the office should become a ‘clubhouse’ and, while opportunities to collaborate and see colleagues may draw people to the office, if they can’t do individual focus work there as well, they will struggle to feel productive after they’ve made the commute,” continues Congdon. “The data in this report reveal what people really want in their workplaces: a place that supports different types of work and helps them feel purpose and a sense of belonging to the organisation.”