Asian Employees Are Desperate To Get Back To Office

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Surprising findings headlined a recent survey of white-collar employees across the world.

The study, published by Barco, found that only 16% of Asian employees want to continue to work from home full-time after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

A majority (63%) felt that working from home is less enjoyable. The reasons include challenges in collaborating with colleagues, struggling to contribute to meetings, and missing office life’s social side.

Instead of remote working, employees prefer a hybrid workplace model that gives them the flexibility to work from home when it works best. The survey found that among Asian respondents, the ideal balance on average includes three days in the office, with a maximum of two days a week working remotely.

The underlying theme of the survey is that employees think we are entering a recovery phase. The study showed that the number of remote-only meetings is expected to drop significantly, while hybrid meetings will become the new norm.

“For companies with a mainly office-based workforce, COVID-19 has been the greatest and fastest shift in ways of working that we’ve ever seen. While the world of work will never be the same again, the immediate reaction to the pandemic – that office life as we know it would end and people would move to universal remote working for the foreseeable future – already looks to be an overreaction,” said Gan Ta Loong, vice president for APAC ProAV at Barco.

While the study pointed to a desire to get back to offices, Asian employees have different expectations. In turn, this will shape the future of offices.

For example, employees are no longer keen on huddle spaces, signaling the end of these informal meeting areas that featured strongly before the pandemic. Instead, 54% of Asian respondents said they prefer formal meeting rooms now, and 76% prefer scheduled meetings over impromptu ones.

Asian employees seemed opposed to the idea of spending more time in co-working spaces (51%) — a trend that many had predicted as a result of the pandemic. Most employees still prefer to spend most of their time at large corporate headquarters, although now with more flexibility to work from home some of the time.

The pandemic has made technology a priority for employers. And while during the pre-pandemic, we talked about the rising adoption of smartphones, it was laptops that shone during the pandemic. In fact, 82% of Asian respondents said they couldn’t bear to be parted from it while at work.

The study noted that laptops will continue to become an essential device for Asian employees, buoyed by the ‘Bring Your Own Meeting’ trend where employees bring their own preferred conferencing solutions.

Laptops are also becoming the preferred device for video calls, more so than in-room systems and smartphones. Fifty-eight percent of employees prefer to host video calls from their laptop, compared to 17% who prefer in-room systems and 19% who like to use their smartphone.

Despite the growth of in-room camera use (traditional in-room conferencing systems and USB-based SWAPs) from 30% to 40% in one year, 65% of employees still use their laptop camera even when they are in a meeting room. Clearly, however, this is a sub-par experience because more than 65% of respondents complained of camera malfunctions during meetings.

So, perhaps it is not surprising that when asked where they want their employers to invest, Asian employees said better video conferencing in meeting rooms. It shows the rising importance of these rooms, with 83% of Asian respondents saying they use video conferencing rooms on average at least once a week, and 22% using them daily.

Asian employees also want efficiency and usability when using video conferencing apps. Close to 70% of Asian respondents said apps for joining a video conference in one click should be available within the next year if they aren’t already. Meanwhile, voice recognition technology, software for remote co-creation, and Instagram-style filters for video conferencing are all expected by most people within just two years.

These technology advancements point to a driving need for better connectivity between physical and virtual participants in the future. More than six in ten people believed that a lack of in-person interaction was one of the critical reasons for feeling less connected to their colleagues, and 63% said that collaborating remotely with colleagues, clients, and others does not come naturally.

“Technology will be crucial to achieving the new normal in remote and hybrid meetings. The message comes through loud and clear from our survey: of all the things office workers want their companies to invest in, collaboration technologies are the top of the list. To survive, rebuild and eventually thrive again in the post-pandemic world, businesses will need to invest in new technologies, redesign or at least reconfigure their office spaces, and give their employees the tools they need to work in the best way possible, no matter where they are located or how they choose to connect,” said Gan.  

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