How Remote Work Is Redefining the Role of the Office

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Temps de lecture : 5 minutes

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the majority of companies to shift to remote operations, it fundamentally changed the way people work. And even as it becomes safe for employees to return to work, in order to make a successful transition, companies need to examine how the shift to remote work has permanently changed the role and functionality of the office.

So how, exactly, has remote work redefined the role of the office—and what will employees want, need, and expect when they return after a year plus of working remotely? 

How the role of the office has permanently changed

As mentioned, the pandemic fundamentally changed the way people work. While long commutes and working in the office five days a week were the norm for millions of workers pre-COVID, now that they’ve proved they’re able to do their work (and do it well) remotely, many want to continue to have the flexibility to work from home—at least part of the time.

According to the Workforce Sentiment Survey from CBRE, a whopping 85 percent of employees want to continue working remotely at least two to three days a week post-pandemic.

When the Covid crisis is over, 8most employees want to adopt a hybrid work model, to balance remote work and work at the office

Source: Workforce Sentiment Survey from CBRE (2020)

Also read: [Expert Opinion] Brigitte Vaudolon: Best Practices For Successful Remote Working

So, the role of the office has changed in that employees no longer see working there as a necessity to do their job; now that they know they can be just as effective while working from home, few are eager to go back to spending all their time at the office.

But even though remote work has made employees want more flexibility in how and where they work, that doesn’t mean they want to give up on the office altogether. According to the Reimagining Human Experience study from JLL, nearly ¾ of employees said they still want the option to work in the office—with 70 percent favoring a hybrid model that allows them to work part-time remote and part-time in the office.

Also read: Are We Witnessing The Death Of The Office?

But that’s not the only way remote work has redefined the role of the office; the shift to remote work has also changed what employees expect from their office environments—and if businesses want to stay competitive, they need to adjust accordingly.

So, what exactly do employees want, need, and expect when they return to the office?

What employees will be expecting when they return to the office

After spending more than a year working remotely, employees have a different set of expectations for their return to the office, including an increased focus on:

Health and wellness

Health and wellness became extremely important during the pandemic—and because employees were working from home, they had control over how and in what ways they supported their health and wellness (for example, by making themselves healthy lunches, taking a break during the afternoon to walk outside, or taking mental health days when necessary to avoid burnout). 

And when they return to the office, three out of four employees expect their employer to continue supporting their health, well-being, and nutrition¹.

Also read: Changing Work Modes: What Role Does Quality Of Work Life Play?

Before you welcome back employees, make sure you’re taking steps to support their health while they’re in the office, like stocking the kitchen with healthy snacks or carving out an hour every day for employees to step away from their work and get outside. It’s also important to structure your office in a way that helps employees avoid burnout—whether that’s having a clear end time when you send employees home or having a space where employees who are feeling overwhelmed or stressed can take a break and relax. For many employees, this kind of office setup is a must; according to the JLL study, 72 percent of employees ranked work-life balance a priority.

Employees' priorities are shifting, hence the need to redefine the role of the office

Source: Reimagining Human Experience Study from JLL (November 2020)

Functional and diverse spaces

Work has changed—and, as such, employees are expecting their office to shift in a way to support the new hybrid work model.

Also read: [Expert Opinion] Bertrand Duperrin: Toward a Hybrid Work Model

According to the JLL study, 50 percent of employees expect new, functional workspaces in the office that support collaboration with colleagues working remotely. And 67 percent are happy to give up their dedicated workspaces in favor of a more flexible, “hot desk” environment (where employees can pick and choose where they work each day from a variety of communal and private workspaces)—if it meant more diverse spaces in the office and more flexibility to work from home.

67% of employees are ready to switch to hot-desking

Source: Reimagining Human Experience Study from JLL (November 2020)

Make sure that, as you’re planning to bring employees back into the office, you’re also thinking about how to change the space to better accommodate employee expectations for a hybrid work model. For example, do you need to replace your dedicated cubicles and offices with more flexible workstations? Is there any technology you need to add to meeting rooms to better support remote collaboration? How can you change, innovate, and improve your office space to make it relevant in a post-COVID work environment?

The point is, the way you designed and managed your office before you went remote may not work post-pandemic—so make sure that you’re adjusting your office space as necessary.


One thing that was missing from the remote work experience? The ability to collaborate with co-workers in person—and many employees are expecting the office to support the in-person collaboration and socialization they have been missing since going remote.

According to the JLL study, 70 percent of employees said that the office is the perfect place to collaborate—while another 60 percent said that the office fostered the opportunity to socialize. And according to the CBRE study, 60 percent of employees will return to the office for community and collaboration.

The office is the preferred location for some crucial activities: it now plays a key role in collaboration

Source: Reimagining Human Experience Study from JLL (November 2020)

They’re also looking for their employers to create spaces for that collaboration and socialization to happen; the JLL study found that “spaces that foster socialization” were one of employees’ top two expectations when returning to the office—and nearly half (49 percent) expect those spaces to boost their overall experience in the office.

So, if you want your employees to embrace being back in the office, you need to create an office that allows them to experience what many have been missing while working remotely—the opportunity for community, collaboration, and engagement with their fellow teammates. Create communal spaces that allow coworkers to talk, mingle, and collaborate on projects. Hold social events to bring your team together. The office is the perfect opportunity to build relationships within your team—and if you want your office to succeed in the era of remote/hybrid work, you need to take advantage of that opportunity.

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Remote work has redefined the role of the office; the expectations around what an office needs to be and provide have completely shifted. But now that you know exactly how the role of the office is changing—and what your employees are expecting from their office environment—you have everything you need to set your business, your team, and your office up for success moving forward.

Do you want to learn more about the challenges and best practices of hybrid work? Read our white paper on this topic:

Access White Paper

In our white paper “Future of Work: Make Way for Hybrid Work!” you’ll discover the eight main challenges of hybrid work; best practices managers, HR, internal communication, IT and employees all can adopt; and the tools for facilitating hybrid work.

¹ Reimagining Human Experience study from JLL (2020)

Author: Deanna deBara

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