Is the office dead post-Covid-19?


  • Business
  • Thursday, 23 Jul 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Employees across the Asia Pacific region have adapted to working from home but more than half said they missed going to the office, a survey by property consultancy JLL showed.

At the height of the Covid-19 pandemic across the region, an average of 68% of employees surveyed regionally worked from home. According to JLL, 61% of the same respondents working remotely said they missed going to the office and would favour a hybrid model combining more flexible work arrangements in the future.

JLL’s new Asia Pacific report “Home and Away: the new hybrid workplace?” argued that employees consistently believe that while they enjoy the freedom of working from home, they miss the human interaction and face-to-face collaboration that working in a professional office environment provides.

The survey was based on the views of 1,500 employees from Australia, India, Singapore, China and Japan.

Respondents were asked about the impact of extended periods of remote work, access to technology, and which changes in professional behaviour will become permanent.

Millennials said they missed the office more than other age groups at 66% and highlighted the office experience's benefits: human interaction, a professional environment, and a place for focused work.

Furthermore, 81% of millennials said they felt technology-ready, and 52% said they were more productive working from home. However, some could not afford accommodation with the space and amenities vital for successful home-working.

“Our employees in Malaysia started to return to the office on a split team basis since May 13,” says JLL Malaysia Country Head YY Lau.

“Most of us have adapted to working from home leveraging on JLL technologies, but most of our employees still find the lack of human interaction and other challenges such as distractions from their family members and work facilities,” Lau said.

JLL Asia Pacific CEO Anthony Couse added that "many now crave the office environment's cultural and human experience. It is becoming clearer that the office is here to stay, but greater acceptance of remote working will force a new workplace model for many corporations regionally.”

The evolving expectations of employees for hybrid work arrangements will have clear implications for corporate real estate in establishing a shared purpose and culture, the consultancy said.

Respondents surveyed showed that 29% of employees in the region are very confident about their company’s future, and 27% were very confident in their own prospects. Millennials were even more optimistic on both counts (35% and 34%, respectively).

As a result, respondents believe that employers have a responsibility to foster this sense of optimism, whether their teams are working from home or in the office and as businesses, enhance human performance and productivity wherever their workers are.

Key considerations for employers exploring a hybrid model include:

> Office space is here to stay: Higher acceptance of remote working will lead to a more distributed and diverse workforce, but this will come with its own challenges on productivity and efficiency. Office space will continue to hold its importance, in most instances as the optimal working environment.

> Offices will be re-imagined as social hubs: The office provides a culture that cannot be replicated via remote working and serves as a social hub for employees to connect on common goals, purpose and vision. Re-purposed or re-designed work areas will be required to provide infrastructure for collaboration among the split teams of remote and on-site staff.

> Future footprint will facilitate choices and flexibility: Work from home saw many employees enjoy greater flexibility and control on their personal and professional lives. Corporates will have to redefine their real estate footprint, leveraging distributed and liquid spaces. Home offices, co-working places, satellite offices and the office HQ will all have to co-exist – leading to a truly hybrid office model.

Conclusion: the office is here to stay.

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