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The Great Office Reset: What’s Next for the Workplace?

McCoy Rockford

It’s a new year, and with that comes new research from Steelcase. After conducting studies in 10 countries, engaging over 32,000 people, Steelcase uncovered the top needs that are driving the shift in the overall work experience — and different needs means new ways of planning and designing spaces.

As Steelcase explained, organizations are at a tipping point, and the focus isn’t on how to return to business as usual, but rather, what can we do to meet evolving workplace expectations and create better spaces.

A Deeper Sense of Belonging
If you worked from home at any point during the last year, chances are you felt isolated from your team from time to time. The want to reconnect with co-workers and an organization’s purpose is the top reason people want to get back in the office. In fact, Gensler’s U.S. Work from Home Survey 2020 reported the majority of workers want to work in an office setting again.

People want to accomplish work now more than ever. Steelcase explained there was an average 14% drop in engagement and 12% drop in productivity during the height of the pandemic, which is solid evidence for a return to the workplace.


9 Out of 10 Rank a “Quiet, Professional Environment” as a Reason to Return to the Workplace

  • People want options as to where they work.
  • Working from home has helped some avoid distractions, but it’s not the most ideal place to focus.
  • Flexibility in work environment is important going forward.
  • Work is inherently social, and connection is absent online.
  • Comfort and health are important — people want to trade in their couch for an ergonomic set up at work.

Returning to Status Quo Isn’t the Answer
Being in the workplace is so vital to drive growth, spark innovation, build culture and support employee wellbeing — but as Steelcase illustrates, we can’t return to the office of the past. There have been macro shifts in people’s expectations about the work experience from safer environments, a layout that support productivity, spaces that foster inspiration and flexible work arrangements.

  • 73% of employees say air quality and adherence to safety protocols is a top concern.
  • People want three things from their workplace: collaboration, easy access to resources and the ability to focus.
  • People want to feel a sense of shared purpose with co-workers and their organization.
  • Flexible furnishings are just as important as a flexible work arrangement.

How to Build a Safe Workplace According to Steelcase

  • Expand the ecosystem of places, offer more choices, more control.
  • Shift from fixed to fluid.
  • Focus on “me within we”.
  • Make every collaboration space high performing.
  • Merge the digital and physical.

Get all the tips from Steelcase to compete in the post-COVID era here.