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There’s a new top reason why employees wish to return to the office: to focus on work.

That was a somewhat surprising result from Gensler’s new 2022 U.S. Workplace Survey released this week, according to Janet Pogue McLaurin, global director workplace research, principal at Gensler.

Gensler had conducted 11 surveys since the pandemic “and this is the first time that the ability to collaborate or work in-person with team members didn’t head the list,” she tells GlobeSt.com.

Focus on work was indicated by 48% of respondents and “to sit with my team” ranked No. 5 at 38%.

Pogue McLaurin noted that this preference rated particularly high among younger workers.

“Gen Z is seeking to be in the office more often than other generations, primarily to take advantage of pent-up demand for learning and career development opportunities,” according to the survey.

Other leading reasons employees selected for why they come into the office center around intentional-based activities such as access to technology (43%), scheduled meetings (42%), and access to specific spaces, materials and resources (39%).

Survey Methodology Details

The survey was conducted by the Gensler Research Institute and details the reasons employees are returning to the office, how the office can more effectively support them, and the strategic mix of experiences that will accelerate their return.

The results are based on an anonymous, panel-based survey of more than 2,000 US office workers was conducted online between June 14 and Aug. 7.

Respondents excluded workers who had not yet returned to the office since the start of the pandemic. At the time of data collection, respondents were required to be working in the office at least some of the time.

Respondents were distributed across 10 industries and represented a broad cross-section of demographics including education, commuting distances, and geographical location across the US.

Employees Seek a ‘Mix’ of Subhead

Employees want to come back to the office more frequently, but only if the workplace offers the right experiences. Namely, the quality of their office environments is holding them back.

While experience preferences differ among workers, Pogue McLaurin said employees want to work in places that offer a “different mix” of environments, “experiences that are simply not available to them when they are working remotely.”

Nearly a quarter (24%) of employees reported they’d be willing to return to the office full-time if their company provided their ideal work experience mix, and almost half (42%) said they’d come in one more day each week, according to the survey. In total, 83% of employees would willingly return more often for their ideal mix of experiences.

Tech Must be Equitable to Remote, In-Office Workers

Pogue McLaurin said that providing technology in the office has become paramount, given the mix of most remote and in-person office environments.

“Offices post-pandemic need different technologies so they can meet the needs of both types of workers,” she said.

“The most important thing is that the technology is equitable for those in the office and those calling in. The technology must be seamless and effective. We’re getting to the point where technology like this has to be ‘plug and play.’ ”

Workplace Effectiveness at 15-year Low

The new data also shows that the workplace’s effectiveness for working alone is at a 15-year low, setting up a critical challenge for worker performance and the return to office.

Employees in high-performing workplaces are almost twice as likely to report that the office positively contributes to organizational outcomes such as speed of decision-making, quality of work, and team productivity in addition to more personal outcomes like their personal wellbeing, career advancement and job satisfaction, according to Gensler.

Workers in high-performing workplaces also report that they ideally want to work in the office more regularly than they currently do. This suggests that the workplace can be a critical tool for talent attraction and retention, the leading global architecture and design firm.

Workers crave a diverse mix of workspaces, from coffee shops to library and boutique hotel-like spaces. As employees return to the office, they’re expecting this range.

Spaces for creative group work and individual quiet work have the greatest impact on space effectiveness and experience.

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