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Employees Eagerly Returned to Office Envoy Reports; Zillow Says Hybrid is 'Old-School'

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Welcome to the latest WorkSpace Connect News Wrap, our periodic recap of the news related to the modern workplace, the professionals that make it happen, and the products and services that enable it. In this edition, we look at Envoy's data analysis of what trends it noticed in its office space services platform, and Zillow rejects hybrid offices as old-fashioned.
Envoy Reports Eagerness to Return to the Office … For Some of the Time
The discussion of a hybrid workplace has percolated through workplace circles, and leaders are grappling with how and where employees should work in 2022. For a look at how 2021 shook out for returning to the office, software platform provider Envoy, which specializes in tools to manage the physical workspace, has found that office traffic steadily increased through 2021.
As Envoy details in its "At Work: the 2022 workplace trends report," workplace traffic grew 87% from January 2021 to U.S. Thanksgiving. After taking into consideration the end-of-year holidays and the Omicron variant, traffic at the end of the year was still 41% higher on average than it was at the beginning of 2021. New York City saw six times as much return-to-work traffic in 2021 compared to 2020. Other cities whose employees surged back to the office included Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington D.C.
Another finding in the report: The majority of employees (62%) actually preferred to work mostly on-site.
“It’s no longer employees coming in because they have to be there. They’re coming in because it feels good for them to be back and be around others,” said Kaitlin Lieck, center operations associate at Parsley Health.
The Atlantic's Derek Thompson recently prognosticated on how the rise of hybrid work — and its attendant uncoupling from both geography and a classic 40-hour workweek — will affect how office life is structured. He reported:
“The number of person-days in the office is never going back to pre-pandemic average, ever,” [Stanford economics professor Nick Bloom] told me. After two years of working from home, he said, employees don’t just prefer it. They also feel like they’re getting better at it. Despite widespread reports of burnout, self-reported productivity has increased steadily in the past year, according to his research.
In the next decade, U.S. workers will spend about 25 percent of their time working from home, Bloom says. That’s 20 percentage points higher than the pre-pandemic figure, leaving companies with an important choice: sign for significantly less office space, or accept that significantly more of your space will go unused on a given day.
While one survey tells us that people want to come back to the office, other researchers say employees want to mostly stay at home. For workplace leaders, discerning what a workforce wants is a tall task, especially during the Great Resignation.
Zillow: Hybrid Offices Are Still Too Old School for Our Workforce
Meghan Reibstein, VP of project management and flexible work for the real estate company, recently explained on the GeekWire podcast that Zillow's been revamping its company work culture to emphasize flexibility. This includes three key policies: the company commits to core collaboration hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Pacific Time, with the expectation that group meetings happen during that time; the company rejected hybrid in-person/video meetings for an approach it calls “One Zoom, all Zoom," and Zillow doesn't adjust salaries if employees move from one geographical market to another, but bases compensation around what it calls a "national approach."
"Hybrid is kind of faux flexible in our minds. Our perspective was that hybrid represents this old-school way of thinking about it, where you’ve got to be in sometimes, and you can be out sometimes. Flexible is just meant to represent what you need as an employee," Reibstein said.