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Survey reveals 86% of workers want to return to work

The Nelson Mandela Bridge adds a burst of splendour to the night skyline of the city of Gold. Picture: Steve Lawrence

The Nelson Mandela Bridge adds a burst of splendour to the night skyline of the city of Gold. Picture: Steve Lawrence

Published Jun 4, 2020

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Johannesburg - A surprising number of people want to get back to the office, even though office workers have largely been working from home and using online communication through the lockdown.

One of South Africa’s largest workplace consultancies, Giant Leap, did a nationwide survey that involved canvassing the opinions of several hundred people through level 4 of the lockdown. Most office workers worked from home in the interests of social distancing.

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Giant Leap director Linda Trim said the survey showed that 86% of people want to go back to working in an office.

She said while remote work was initially very popular, as time wore on, people realised there was a lack of work life balance. People often reported feelings of isolation and difficulties in carrying team tasks; many missed co-workers.

“The survey showed 70% of people missed the general social interactions of the office, while 85% said they missed the ‘colleague interaction’ while working at home,” Trim said in a statement.

About 81% felt that working remotely made work communication harder.

And 70% reported they were more sedentary working at home.

Trim said the South African results were similar to findings by global architecture firm Gensler’s recent US Work from Home Survey, which polled 2500 workers across the US.

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It showed only 12% of US workers want to work from home full-time, while 74% said people were what they missed most about the office. Most wanted to return to their workplace.

She said the survey showed that most workers want to spend the majority of their normal work week at the office, while maintaining the ability to work from home for part of the week.

“On average, the more satisfied a respondent was with their prior work environment, the fewer days they wanted to work from home,” she said.

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When asked about the most important reasons to come into the office, respondents overwhelmingly chose activities focused on people and community, including scheduled meetings, socialising and face-to-face time. Workers also listed access to technology and the ability to focus on their work as key reasons to come in.

Trim said South Africa would slowly get back to work and offices would again be the epicentre of the working world, but well-being had become paramount in workplaces.

However, Alexander Forbes head of strategic clients Lesiba Mothata, and head of multinational consulting, Craig Bentley, said with remote working likely to become a more permanent feature of the workplace environment in various industries, companies needed to work on providing better technology to enable flexible working, increasing flexible working hours to encourage effective time management and rethinking their talent value proposition strategies.

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