Connected Solutions

Over Half of Americans Want to Return to the Office at Least Part-Time


According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, nearly one-third of American employees worked remotely in 2019. Although surveys revealed that many more were interested in working at least some of the time outside of the office, companies were still hesitant to embrace remote working arrangements. However, that all changed in 2020, as the onset of COVID-19 and subsequent lockdowns kicked off the largest remote working shift of the century. 

Early in the pandemic, CommercialCafe conducted a survey to learn how people who were working from home felt about their experience up to that point. Between May 4 and May 11, 2020, approximately 2,600 individuals responded to questions regarding their initial reaction to having to work remotely. They were asked whether they would prefer to return to their previous arrangements, the benefits and challenges of working from home and how they expected their offices to change in the future. At the time, respondents had mixed feelings about their current situation.

Initial reactions to learning they would have to work from home were split fairly evenly between those who were excited about the prospect (46%) and those who were unsure about what it would mean in terms of their productivity and work-life balance. Only 8% reported being upset.

Meanwhile, a few weeks into the lockdown, nearly one-third of respondents indicated that they missed working from the office, while 73% were positive or neutral about their experience.

So, what data matters to employers who are trying to encourage workers to come back to the office? Whether they’re thinking of returning to their offices full-time or part-time, survey respondents pointed to certain short-term and long-term changes that they expected to see.

Unsurprisingly, roughly 60% of respondents reported that great emphasis needed to be put on cleaning and sanitizing, while standards to ensure better air and ventilation needed to change permanently. In the short-term, 41% of workers said they believed that companies should invest in personal protective equipment (PPE) for those at the office. However, the workplace of the future would also need to allow for more personal space and private offices — instead of packing in as many people per square foot as possible. 

Likewise, respondents felt that technology that encouraged social distancing would also be desirable, while 26% indicated that more space dividers would be viable as a short-term solution.

What’s more, employers aren’t the only ones thinking about the shape of the post-pandemic office. Coworking spaces, as well, have had to make significant adjustments throughout 2020 because they could no longer rely on some of their main selling points: socializing and working in an informal environment in close proximity to strangers. Events and gatherings have been halted. Shared desks are harder to sell.

Nevertheless, coworking spaces like the McKinley Club or The Department in Phoenix have taken on the challenge. These companies have paid great attention to sanitation, social distancing and the use of masks among their members. Corporate coworking is also going to continue to be a significant driver in the return of the flexible workspace industry, as more businesses turn to a hub and spoke model, putting teams of employees in coworking spaces or satellite offices throughout more accessible areas of the city. Phoenix office space for rent has continued an upward trend these last few months, being named the top metro area in the country with 8.4% annual rent growth, per Zillow data. Combine a plethora of coworking options with high rental demand and its quickly becoming an “it” destination.  

For more survey highlights and details regarding our methodology, read the full story on the CommercialCafe blog.