Will the need for social interaction make the hybrid office a passing fad?


While many Canadian employees want to return to a hybrid office – some categorically, according to a recent survey by human resources firm Robert Half – some believe that the “fear of missing out” on the opportunity to socialize with colleagues in the workplace can make the future office look a lot more like the pre-pandemic office.

Andy Cohen, co-CEO of Gensler, a global architecture, design and planning firm, recently wrote about the results of Gensler’s study U.S. Work From Home Survey 2020, an anonymous online study of more than 2,300 US-based workers who were full-time employees of a company with more than 100 people.

Only 12% of people polled by Gensler wanted to continue working from home five days a week after the pandemic. Forty-four percent preferred to work from home 1-4 days a week, while 44% said they wanted to return to the office full-time, five days a week.

The results of the Gensler survey contrast in particular with other studies which suggest that a majority of employees would prefer to work from home at least one or more days a week when they return to the office.

For example, in an online survey of over 1,100 P&C professionals conducted by Canadian Underwriter in January 2021, 72% of respondents said they prefer to work from home. Eighty-one percent have asked their employers to offer more flexibility to work from home after the pandemic is over.


Canadian UnderwriterGensler’s survey found a similar finding in the Gensler study: Citing the importance of social interaction, 40% of P&C insurance professionals reported some excitement about seeing their colleagues and their peers once they can safely return to the office.

Cohen believes this fear of missing out on social interactions in the workplace may ultimately bring coworkers back to the office more often than you think.

“With many colleagues returning to the workplace, remote employees experience a new kind of FOMO: the fear of missing useful updates, critical information and key connections,” wrote Cohen in an article on LinkedIn. “Information shared in person contains rich layers of nuance and context that simply cannot be transmitted through a computer screen. People want and need face-to-face interaction to be successful at their jobs.

In support of its findings, the Gensler Research Institute notes that people lack face-to-face working relationships. The study argues that the workplace is where people form diverse relationships across races, ethnicities and generations.

Forty percent of people polled by Gensler said the workplace is where they make “most of their new friendships”. Eighty-one percent said they made friendships with people of other races or ethnicities, while 87% said they made friendships with people of other generations at their workplace.

And then, will the drawing of lots of our colleagues be enough to bring everyone back to the old normality? Is the hybrid work model, in which employees divide their time between work from home and the office, a passing fad?

A labor attorney recently quoted in BNN Bloomberg News, Torys LLP attorney Darryl Hiscocks asked how long the homework narrative could last.

“Will there be enough telecommuting to go around once the dust settles and employers decide to call employees back to the office?” The answer will likely be ‘no’ in many cases, ”Hiscocks told BNN Bloomberg in an email. “Many employers should be – and are – examining these issues and weighing the pros and cons of requiring staff to return to the office full time – including with due regard to the “Risk of flight” of losing valuable personnel. “

The risk of leakage is real, according to a recent survey of American employees by the human resources firm Robert Half.

“About one in three professionals (34%) currently working from home due to the pandemic would look for a new job if they had to be in the office full time,” said Robert Half of his survey results.

The online survey was developed by Robert Half and conducted by an independent research firm from March 9-16, 2021. It includes responses from more than 1,000 workers aged 18 or older at companies in the United States.

“After a year of drastic change, many business leaders are eager to restore a sense of normalcy and welcome staff back to the office,” said Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half, of the results. of the investigation. “But reopening the doors will bring new obstacles to business navigation. Not all employees will be ready – or willing – to return to the workplace, so staying flexible and responsive to their needs will be essential.

“Whatever the timing, companies need to take a measured and carefully planned approach back to the office and keep employee health and safety in mind. Executives should also take the opportunity to solicit input from staff to shape the corporate culture of the future. “

Featured image courtesy of iStock.ca / RapidEye

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