What Workers Want is Shifting: Gensler

Gensler has released its latest series of Global Workplace Surveys, which includes data specific to the Canadian workforce.

As employees return to the office, needs and expectations have shifted for how we work post-pandemic. The Gensler Research Institute surveyed 2,000 office workers across Canada to discover why, where, and how employees are choosing to work. The findings revealed the latest trends and insights in workplace effectiveness and identified a surprising shift in the reason workers want to return to the office.

Hybrid workers require a flexible blend of work settings and locations.

Hybrid work is evolving. People can now work at a variety of other locations, including client or customer sites, secondary offices, and third spaces such as coffee shops, libraries, and coworking locations. On average, younger workers spend a half of their time working outside of the office and their home, while older workers spend 67% of their workweek in the office. While many employees are exploring alternative work locations, the office is still regarded as an important enabler of team and individual productivity. Workers say that they ideally need to be in the office more often than they are currently to maximize productivity. The sweet spot for time spent in the office is between three and four days a week, with 63% of employees citing this as their ideal. It’s also important to note that employees want autonomy on how they plan their day, 59% of employees prefer to come to the office for partial days or specific meetings and events while 36% of employees want to come to the office for full days.

The way we spend our time in the office has changed; the workplace needs to adapt as well.

This survey found that employees spend 41% of their time working alone and 42% working together both in person (27%) and virtually (15%). The office already effectively facilitates activities that require physical interaction, such as socializing and working together in-person. However, it is less effective in supporting individual work and working together virtually. On average, 71% of time spent working alone requires a high level of concentration. In addition, hybrid meetings—requiring physical and virtual participants—represent more than half of the meetings in the office. The best workplace designs offer effective spaces for working alone and working with others virtually.

When asked, “What is the most important reason to come to the office?”, the number one response was surprising: To focus on work. Rounding out the top five reasons included 2) Socializing with colleagues; 3) Access to technology; 4) Scheduled, in-person meetings with team members; and 5) To sit with one’s team. Throughout the pandemic, working in-person with my team was the top-ranked reason to come to the office, this is an interesting shift in the reason to come to office.

Spaces for individual and creative group work have a significant impact on space effectiveness and workplace experience.

Workplaces that are both effective and offer great experiences provide access to a range of spaces for individual work and creative collaboration. Creative collaboration spaces such as innovation hubs and project rooms also have a significant impact on workplace experience and effectiveness. Spaces with the most value for working alone allow employees to engage in contemplative tasks. Quiet/tech-free zones, focus rooms, and meditation spaces enable workers to disconnect from others and focus on their individual work. While innovation hubs and project rooms offer the most value in bringing employees together to be creative and brainstorm. Other spaces such as outdoor workspaces and work cafés play a key role in boosting the overall work experience. Our global Workplace Survey data also shows that while the time spent on in-person and virtual collaboration has remained the same, the time spent working alone in the office has gone down (47% to 34%) over the pandemic and has been replaced by time spent on learning and socializing work modes.

Effective workspaces that offer a rich diversity of experiences will create more desirable offices.

As workers return to the office, they not only want an effective workplace, but one that also offers a great workplace experience. We asked office workers to create their ideal work experience by selecting from a range of everyday experiences. The results indicated that employees desire a rich blend of different experiences (i.e., coffee shop, residential, library, boutique hotel and corporate). Of the employees not already working from the office full-time, almost half said they would return at least one additional day per week, and a total of 75% reported that they would return to the office more regularly if their ideal experience was provided.

Younger generations say they are more willing to come into the office more often for their ideal mix of experiences. While Gen Z workers prefer amenity-rich experiences such as coffee shop and boutique hotel–like spaces, older generations are more likely to prefer a mix of both hospitality and business-like experiences.

In this time of constant change and uncertainty, companies are leery about making big real estate decisions. To address this, Gensler is recommending a Test and Learn approach – testing ideas and solutions with a smaller group, smaller space within one’s organization, dedicated pilot floors and labs to test products, and policy and place making for different groups withing the organization.

An overview of the Canadian Workplace Survey can be reviewed and downloaded from Gensler’s website