Three out of five enterprise employees miss in-person interaction when working remotely

Most people working from home believe they are still a long way from their desk job environments when it comes to their working environment, according to a new survey.

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How do enterprise employees feel about working from home? Are they happy to return to full-time office work? Do they want to work from home forever or go back to face to face interactions with their coworkers? A new collaboration survey sheds light on what employees want from their hybrid office experience.

Bellevue, WA-based collaboration and communications management company Unify Square, a Unisys company, has today released its workplace collaboration report. Its second annual workplace collaboration survey has uncovered that three in five enterprise employees miss in-person interaction.

The survey asked 563 enterprise employees about their perspectives on collaboration and communication since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they imagine that the hybrid workplace will continue to evolve post-pandemic.

The survey showed that over half (54.17%) of employees reported that their company did not offer remote working as an option pre-pandemic -- only one in six (14.39%) respondents worked all of the time remotely. Now over half (55%) work at least a few days a week remotely.

In 2020, about a third of people (32%) said their ideal work location would be 100% in the office. Second to this (22%) was work from home (WFH) with some occasional in-office time.

Only 7.1% of employees said that they did not work remotely even though their company offered it as an option. Although work practices do seem to have changed in 2020, people's perspectives on working remotely seem to have stayed the same.

Asked whether their organisation was planning to require employees to return to the office showed a fairly even split across respondents.

Over one in ten (12.43%) said that their organisation was not planning to require employees to return, 13.68% said that their company was planning to require employees to return, and almost one in five (19.72%) said that they were already back at the office.

Only 3.02% said that their company required employees to prove they were vaccinated before returning to the office.

However, organisational plans have not suited some employees, with 12.79% reporting that they were more likely to quit their current jobs, and 1.24% would definitely leave their current employer.

Respondents do seem to enjoy working from home. One in five (20.78%) enjoyed the lack of commute, and 30.02% believed that the biggest benefit of working from home was not wasting time in traffic.

One in three (34.1%) preferred the more flexible work-life balance, with 23.7% citing that this was the biggest benefit of working remotely. One in ten (10.66%) said that working from home enabled them to focus without distractions.

People who do work remotely tend to agree that working from home does resemble the in-office work experience. However, almost one in three (32.33%) said that it does not resemble the office at all.

Three out of five enterprise employees miss in-person interaction when working remotely zdnet

Unify Square

So what would encourage people to return to the office? Almost half of the employees (45.47%) said that face-to-face human interactions appealed to them about returning to the office, and 14.56% wanted the 'water-cooler-moment' in-person collaboration experience.

One in five (20.6%) wanted to delineate personal life from work life.

But when using online collaboration tools such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, used by 38.37% and 43.52% of organisations, respectively, people reported etiquette issues by their coworkers.

Survey respondents identified many factors that cause them to feel uncomfortable on video calls, including constant interruptions due to interferences of kids, dogs, etc., at others' WFH sites.

Barking dogs are an issue for 6.75% of workers, chatting loudly (25.22%), taking conference calls (13.68%) and yelling across the office (23.45%).

Overall, productivity is seen as an opportunity for online collaboration platforms, with 17.41% feeling that it improved employee productivity and 23.8% believing it improved team productivity.

Unify Square's hybrid work ebook will be released in a couple of weeks. It believes that it is crucial for organizations to be attuned to employee needs to build a productive and loyal workforce.

Giving employees a workspace that allows them to collaborate is seen as key to keeping customers and employees happy -- and preventing them from giving up work altogether.