Research from office design experts Oktra, carried out in September, reveals the extent of dissatisfaction with a working from home culture, particularly in the younger cohort of staff.
Due to isolation and poor working conditions, 59% were struggling to stay motivated and more than a third had lost enthusiasm for their companies, posing a real threat to the future of businesses. Just 16% of respondents wanted to work from home full-time permanently.
Given the likelihood of ongoing lockdowns, does this mean that the future of commercial office space is uncertain, or is there something about working in a communal space that is so essential for businesses they are prepared to weather the current storm and invest for the future in their workplaces?
Tracey Gleig, an executive and office manager at video game company Square Enix, says: “We can never imagine not having an office. The culture is an important attraction of the company and we are an organisation that needs to collaborate.
“The people who are struggling the most with this situation are our younger staff, many of whom live in shared flats with little or no private space. They need the social aspects of a workplace and miss the inclusive culture.
“We moved in 2015 into a more flexible working environment and allowed working from home. It didn’t become the norm, however, until the pandemic threw us straight into a working from home culture.
“It’s OK and we are working fine as a business, but we consider it to be far from ideal. There are technology issues particular to our business: the sheer amount of information that our developers need to communicate puts pressure on home wifi systems, and there are confidential files that we are uncomfortable sharing.
“Beyond that, however, is the longer-term threat to our workforce. The younger generation of game masters rely on being able to talk freely to each other, to learn and share advice and ideas. It’s really difficult to recreate this seamless communication remotely.”
“Then there is the culture. We are in a competitive industry, and one of our assets as an organisation is our company culture. We recruit people from around the world who come to London to experience the lifestyle and atmosphere of this great city. Oktra worked with us to design an office specifically to support the kind of collaborative working that produces both the best work and the most intense culture.
“Company life will be radically different after the pandemic, and we anticipate a balance of working from home and from the office. The office will remain the heart of the culture and the brand and I don’t see that changing.”
Gleig’s views are echoed by Kirstie Osborne, digital manager at Ridgemount PR. She says: “I live in a shared flat and everyone has been working from home since March. My workspace is a small table right next to my bed, so the physical workspace is not great, with no space for a proper desk or an ergonomic chair.
“The technology is fine and our company is working very effectively, but I definitely miss being part of a team and being able to have those informal meetings to exchange ideas and be a bit more creative.
“Our company is definite that it will keep its office space, although I think the future will see us all working more flexibly with a mix of working from home and the office.
“Personally, I think the pandemic has probably accelerated a change that was overdue anyway; it doesn’t really make sense to travel two hours a day every day. We need the office for collaborative working and to create a sense of culture, but I don’t need or want to be there every day.”
Craig Smith is chief development officer at Oktra