Perspectives 06.15.2021

Perkins&Will Asks

We challenge. We question. What do our clients and colleagues think about returning to work strategies, real estate planning, and shifts in workplace environments?
P&W Asks

The one thing we have learned from the last year is that the future is uncertain. Traditional planning scenarios are being rethought and disruptive influences seemingly arise out of nowhere. The pandemic has us all seeking answers to unknowable questions. As a part of our learning, we look to our colleagues to understand their thoughts on returning to work, real estate planning, and shifts in workplace environments.

This led our planning & strategies team to seek out answers from our colleagues and clients – to simply find out, what are they thinking in their own organizations?

For the past few months, we have collected data from an informal survey that asked a single question each month. The subject for each question was derived from our continuous conversations with our client base and our active listening in the industry.

We are happy to share the results of the monthly surveys in the hope that it provides you with insight to current trends in our industry.

Spring 2021 Survey Question

The Ask

“What do you think is the greatest inhibitor for staff returning to the workplace?”

The Conclusion

As much as there are significant motivators to return to the office post-pandemic, there are still two main inhibitors of this return, per our April 2021, are ‘giving up the freedom and flexibility of work hours and ‘concerns regarding the health and safety precautions around the office.’ Our forced experimentation with remote working/work from home has given many employees the much-needed liberty to adjust their work hours and balance professional and personal responsibilities during this past year. Our April 2021 survey results indicate that the freedom and flexibility around the work hours will be something employees will not rush to give up.

Winter 2021 Survey Question

The Ask

“What is the primary force motivating employees in your organization to return to the office?”

The Conclusion

Many of us are enthusiastic about returning to the office for many diverse reasons, some of them being to improve our work/life balance, to feel the sense of belonging, conveniences our offices provide us with, and once again socially interact with our colleagues. 

Our February 2021 survey results showed that the primary force motivating employees to return to the office is the need to socially interact with their co-workers. Receiving the votes by over 50% of the survey respondents, the need for in-person connection, collaboration, and interaction will be the main reason why many of us want to be present in our offices once again. Together with our recent projects and partnerships, the survey result has shown us that there is a growing interest in re-purposing some pre-existing workspaces to accommodate more social and collaborative activities amongst employees. 

Winter 2020 Survey Question

The Ask

“Please rank the following in terms of the impact they will have on your organization during the first six months of 2021.”

The Conclusion

The rapidly changing nature of our day-to-day professional and personal lives in this past year has brought significant uncertainty over not only impacted our health but also significantly impacted the health of businesses. 

41% of the respondents to our December 2020 survey ranked ‘Volatility of Business’ as the condition that impacted their business the most, followed by the ‘Health and Safety of the Staff’. Organizations in this unbalanced conjuncture have taken the time and resources to invest in resilience and implement programs and solutions to ensure their employees’ ongoing health and safety.

Fall 2020 Survey Question

The Ask

“Will your return to the workplace include some form of remote work/work from home program? If so, what percentage do you see as the most likely range of remote workers at your organization?”

The Conclusion

44% of our survey responders indicated that their Return to Office program would include at least 10%, and at most 25% of the workforce will be given the option to continue the remote work/work from home setup during this transition period.

As the conversation around hybrid work models evolves continuously, our additional ongoing research, surveys and studies show similar output and indicate that on average, about a quarter to one-third of the staff will be given a chance to work remotely in the long term.

Key Takeaways
What we have discovered since October of 2020
  • As we have adapted more to remote working, opinions have changed about both timing and readiness of our return-to-work plans.
  • Planning a remote work program by functional job description only is being replaced by more nuanced programs that balance job functions with individual readiness to return perspectives.
  • Clients have most struggled with the volatility and unpredictability impact that the pandemic has had on their business.
  • On a basic level, we are social animals. The opportunity for people to reconnect and socialize with their co-workers is a primary motivating factor to returning to the office, particularly in a hybrid situation.
  • The perceived loss of flexibility with their daily work hours is the greatest concern to people as they contemplate the migration back to the office.
Planning & Strategies
Meet Serra Uzun and Paul Eagle
Meet the Team

Serra Uzun, LEED AP® BD+C, Assoc. AIA
Planning & Strategies Consultant 

Serra has a Master of Science in Data Science from Northwestern University with a specialization in Machine Learning and a Master of Science, Renewable Energy & Architecture from the University of Nottingham. Her role in the Planning and Strategies team is to deliver well-rounded and long-term solutions to complex design, planning and programming challenges using scenario modeling, statistical analysis and building analytical tools for clients. 

Paul Eagle, LEED AP® ID+C
Principal, Planning & Strategies Practice Leader 

Paul’s design-based advisory services strategically tie clients’ business goals to a variety of scales of space, from an entire real estate portfolio to an individual’s workspace. Post-occupancy evaluations are key to this successful integration. His ability to envision and communicate the workplace of the future—united with a specific organization’s internal culture, mission, vision, and values— has driven the development of many of the firm’s most forward-thinking office projects.