In a focus group with 32 owners, occupiers and placemakers, Cushman & Wakefield found there is still a place for the office, though remote work productivity has remained strong. Not only were both management and professional staff able to do their work remotely, but administrative and non-exempt workers were also able to execute at a high level.

“It was an ‘aha moment’ that we can actually be very productive when you put 90% of your colleagues fully remote,” one executive told C&W.

Still, the occupiers in C&W’s focus groups indicated that increased remote work has created a perceived cost in long-term productivity, corporate culture and innovation and creativity. They shared that employees wanted to go back to the office to connect and collaborate. In fact, work-from-home fatigue is setting in, which is partially driven by video conferencing. The technology has led to “meeting sprawl” as meetings have increased for many people.

C&W isn’t the only group to notice Zoom fatigue. “People are getting sick of Zoom calls,” Marty Burger, CEO of Silverstein Properties, told GlobeSt.com in an earlier interview. “If you’ve been on lately, people just turn off their videos, and they don’t want to be seen anymore. It’s happening more and more. It’s just getting old. So the work-from-home thing has been a great short-term solution, but it’s not a long-term fix. I think you’ll see more and more people coming into the office.” 

While employees surveyed by C&W were comfortable with remote work today, there was some feeling this might not be sustainable once employees return to the office. C&W pointed out that it could be a much different experience for a worker if they’re on video in a meeting where everyone else is in a conference room.

An overriding theme was that people want to connect and eventually go back to the office. An owner with locations in Korea and China indicated that as of October 2020, businesses were back in the office at pre-pandemic levels in those countries.

When workers are back in the office, focus group participants indicated they would be more likely to innovate and create.

“Asking people to be innovative on a conference call doesn’t always work, participants said, and the spontaneous social interaction that sparks an idea often happens in a fleeting interaction with a colleague a desk or two away,” according to C&W.

Burger agrees. “For the most part, most companies will see the value in having an office,” he told GlobeSt.com. “You can’t mentor people through a Zoom meeting, and it is difficult to raise money over the phone. You can’t collaborate as well when you’re not all in a room together.’

One occupier noted that bringing employees back to the office would “reinforce culture and spark innovation.”

C&W said that occupiers and employees could also benefit from interacting with people from other companies in walkable, vibrant locations. It noted that placemakers were focusing on continuing to enhance those environments.