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Employers should focus on staff comfort when transitioning back to office work


10 - Business Express

Employers should focus on staff comfort when transitioning back to office work

By Aditya Kumar, Director Offering Management, Sustainable Buildings, Honeywell Building Technologies

Amid a softening economy, more businesses are calling workers back into the office, shifting the remote working structures that popped up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With many high-profile companies calling workers back into the office for much of the working week, it is clear that some business leaders want to return to working structures that were considered the norm prior to 2020.

A recent report highlights the changes in the number of workers in the U.K. travelling into the office.[i]  In February 2023, 72 percent of British workers stated that they had travelled into the office within the last week, a huge increase from just 32 percent of workers who ventured into the office in April 2020.

Whilst more workers are returning to the office on a regular basis, flexible working models will likely remain a permanent feature for many workers.

Hybrid working is here to stay

It is undeniable that working from home has an array of benefits. Workers save time on commutes, and they can adjust their surroundings to their personal requirements and preferences. Employees no longer want to be held to a set number of hours or days in the office a week but working from the office still has its advantages.

During the pandemic, working from home left 67 percent of U.K. employees feeling less connected to their colleagues, with 56 percent also struggling to switch off after working hours.[ii] Perhaps a mix of both remote and office work could be the way forward for many workers in today’s society.

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With research highlighting that 84 percent of U.K. workers who worked from home during the pandemic plan to continue working hybrid models, it seems flexible working structures are here to stay.[iii] As such, it is imperative that businesses take action to create offices spaces that employees want to travel to.

Adapting office environments

In order to help successfully transition employees back into the office, there are multiple factors employers can consider. As the pandemic heightened concerns surrounding overall well-being, employers should now make changes to address these concerns effectively. For example, many organisations have started to provide exercise classes, healthy food options, and even implemented next generation building technologies  to prioritise employee comfort and well-being.

In fact, whilst these initiatives are hugely important, employees’ concerns surrounding the quality of the air that’s being circulated in offices is a high priority. According to Honeywell’s latest Building Occupant Survey Report, 82 percent of U.K. respondents claimed to have higher indoor air quality (IAQ) expectations for their workplaces than they did three years ago. Additionally, one in five respondents also stated that they would look for another job if their employer didn’t maintain healthy IAQ levels.[iv] The survey highlights employees’ newfound awareness towards IAQ which emphasises the need for businesses to implement systems and solutions that dispel their workers growing concerns.

Addressing IAQ concerns

Office environments need to be carefully monitored to ensure IAQ is regularly optimised. Through the implementation of modern building technologies, businesses can work to address employees’ concerns regarding office air quality. For example, IAQ sensors can be utilised to constantly monitor levels of pollutants in the air. As occupancy levels of large common areas like workplaces tend to vary regularly, sensors and analytics can manage occupancy levels whilst simultaneously adjusting IAQ parameters.

These next generation building technologies help to prioritise occupants’ well-being through routinely monitoring conditions and occupancy levels. With ways to track and monitor IAQ constantly evolving, workplaces can be better managed with self-learning algorithms, enabling building managers to deliver healthier environments for occupants.

The future: prioritising employee comfort

Given the ongoing shift in behaviours and attitudes towards full-time office or remote working, and hybrid models, businesses should put solutions in place to make the office environment inviting for employees.

With hybrid working models likely to be around for the long-term, businesses should listen to their employees’ changing needs and address their concerns quickly and effectively.

 

[i] Statista, Percentage of adults that have worked from home or travelled to work at some point in the previous seven days in Great Britain, Published: February 27th 2023 [Accessed: 1st March 2023]

[ii] Royal Society for Public Health, Survey reveals the mental and physical health impacts of home working during Covid-19, Published: 4th February 2021 [Accessed: 20th April 2023]

[iii] Office for National Statistics, Is hybrid working here to stay?, Published: 23rd May 2022 [Accessed: 10th March 2023]

[iv] Honeywell, 2023 Building Occupant Survey Report, Published: 23rd February 2023 [Accessed: 2nd March 2023]

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