The majority of employees believe remote working will continue once pandemic restrictions are lifted and say they are working more productively outside of the office, according to a report by property technology firm Equiem.

The survey, conducted during the peak of lockdown between April and May, provides data and insights for both landlords and tenants into workers’ productivity at home. This includes sentiment about returning to work, expectations of landlords, and health and safety concerns as office buildings see historically low occupancy rates during the pandemic.

It found that 82% of occupiers have experienced sustained or improved productivity working from home since Covid-19 led to widespread lockdown restrictions. However, 45% said they missed interactions with colleagues. Sub-optimal conditions and the lack of social interactions were the main concerns raised by respondents working from home.

The switch to remote working looks set to continue post-pandemic, with 65% of occupiers expecting to work from home once per week or more once restrictions are lifted. Pre-pandemic, this figure stood at 28%.

“More occupiers will work from home after lockdown ends, therefore owners need to be even more proactive in understanding their needs and delivering solutions to address them,” said Equiem CEO Gabrielle McMillan.

Remote working: Pandemic spells office “evolution”

Returning to the office is dependent on information and communication and 60% of participants won’t return until ‘it feels safe’. 80% of occupiers said they expect updated information on active in-building Covid cases and new safety and cleaning procedures from their landlords or company.

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“The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown period has accelerated the evolution of the office,” said McMillan.

Equiem also interviewed the owner and managing agents representing over 20 landlords to get an insight into what systems, protocols and other changes landlords will need to implement for tenant safety when returning.

Both occupiers and landlords are concerned about social distancing and office density. Over 60% of occupiers expect current office density information to be available from their landlord or company. Landlords and property managers said they were most concerned by adherence to social distancing measures, managing lift/elevator access and increased cleaning and maintaining air quality in the building.

According to the survey, changes landlords have made to accommodate tenants include: cardless entry, air filtration systems, changes to communal spaces and frequent cleaning of elevators and amenity spaces.

McMillan added that owners “will need to rebuild trust with occupiers, reposition the office as a safe and productive environment, while being able to communicate with tenants who are in the office and at home”.

However, landlord predictions about the future are less clear. 75% envision a medium transition with business as usual by the end of the year, 17% see a short transition (business as usual by July/August) and 8% see a long and slow transition of 12 months or more with more permanent standards for security and safety.

The global office occupier survey was hosted via Equiem’s tenant experience platform, which is used by 175,000 office workers worldwide. The 4,500 survey responses came from the US, UK, Ireland and Australia.

“The long term affects of Covid-19 on the workplace remain unclear as things continue to change week by week, and every city and country tells a different story,” said McMillan.

“Tenants seem to agree that physical office spaces are crucial for collaboration, learning, culture building and important face-to-face meetings. Our data shows that people can be productive while working from home, however – the majority only want to come back once it’s safe. That’s why it’s important that landlords and the C-suite focus on strong communication with tenants whenever possible so they feel secure enough to return.”

Read more: Two-thirds of professionals think remote working is damaging their mental health