By Joshua Burd
A new survey has found that many workers are looking forward to going back to the office, but remain concerned about getting sick and not having enough personal space.
The survey by Studio 1200, a Short Hills-based design firm, revealed that half of its 151 respondents expressed a desire to go back to work after the COVID-19 outbreak, while another quarter are neutral. The top three reasons for wanting to do so are social interaction, returning to their routine and better communications with coworkers.
But the study also revealed many workers’ apprehension about the prospect of leaving their home office. Nearly 100 respondents said they were concerned about getting sick, which was the leading reason ahead of having adequate personal space and commuting time and costs.
Nancy Dougherty, a principal at Studio 1200, noted that workers are seemingly trying to balance those concerns with their desire to get back to a traditional office environment.
“They also responded that they need their companies to have clear social distancing rules and hygiene protocol in order to feel safe,” Dougherty said. “It is critical that companies prepare their spaces properly so employees feel comfortable.”
The survey’s 151 respondents were anonymous but came from a list that encompassed a host of companies, Studio 1200 said. The firm unveiled the findings in conjunction with the release of a free toolkit, which details six focus areas for businesses to address in retrofitting their space to incorporate social distancing and hygiene requirements: workstations, common spaces, materials, hygiene, signage and human resources considerations.
Each area lists specific recommendations for adapting each space, such as de-densifying floorplans and adding physical barriers, along with replacing porous materials where possible with solid materials that are easily cleaned with soap and water and can tolerate bleach. Studio 1200 has also released an accompanying checklist to help keep office managers organized with those tasks.
“We are thrilled to be able to help companies navigate these changes so they can welcome their employees back to the office,” said Sandee Markwith, also a principal of Studio 1200.
Additionally, the firm’s survey found that nearly 75 percent of respondents hope their company will allow them to continue to work from home when their office reopens. Nearly a third of respondents said they would like to do so about two days each week.
Meantime, slightly more respondents reported being more productive at home versus working in the office. Yet just under 60 people said their biggest challenge at home is communication with coworkers, while those who are less productive cited distraction, a lack of space and inadequate technology.
Exactly how soon those workers will return to work is dependent on their employer. Dougherty noted that companies appear to be “running the gamut.”
“Some offices have already reopened their offices to full staff with strict social distancing and hygiene protocol in place while some companies don’t plan to reopen until 2021,” she said. “We think the majority of companies will have their employees come back in small numbers.
“The logistical issues involved in bringing people back is going to be different for each company. It will vary depending on a number of factors including what each state is permitting, the type of business it is and the oversight from the top at each company.”