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Workforce reckoning: 'expectations high as workers flock back to the office'

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

OfficeMax State of the Workplace research reveals purpose, and the comforts of home, are key

67% of the workforce say they will only work for a company that makes a positive impact Having clean and hygienic spaces, quiet areas, and a good cup of coffee also essential

New research released today by workplace solutions provider OfficeMax reveals that company values are the new currency when it comes to employee retention in a post-covid economy. The research findings come as thousands of office workers finally head back into their workplace, many for the first time since August last year.

While salary still tops the priority list for employees, the OfficeMax State of the Workplace research reveals that traditionally ‘softer’ attributes such as purpose, culture, leadership, and business integrity- prove critically important to employee engagement, alongside a raft of office must-haves with clear ties to pandemic work-life.

Purpose proves pivotal

The survey of more than 1,000 office workers found a high majority are focused on the societal impact of an organisation, with two thirds (67%) stating they will only work for a company that has a positive impact on society - a striking figure against a backdrop of labour shortages and "the great resignation". When on the job hunt, 80 per cent of employees say that a company’s stated purpose or mission is important.

Indeed, 35 per cent of those surveyed seek out companies that provide goods or services that benefit society, and that do work which serves a local or global need (22%). Ethical supply chain was also important.

But words aren’t enough. Employees are also evaluating how companies follow through with their publicly stated values, with more than a third (35%) of under 34-year-olds claiming they would leave their job if their employer contradicted its values or mission.

Additionally, more than half of respondents (53%) say that in general what’s important to them in an employer has changed over the past couple of years - from personal values to the workplace.

The comforts of home

The expectations of the physical workplace and company benefits is one such area. When asked about the one thing their employer could do to improve the physical workplace, the findings reflect the months that workers have just spent at home.

Top-notch technology set ups (11%), ergonomic workstations (8%) and improved cleanliness (8%) are deemed a priority, alongside quiet spaces for focus (7%) all made the top four.

For those who’ve been working at home, having a clear separation between work and home-life (47%), as well as being around people to spark ideas and be more creative (45%), are the things they miss most about being in the office.

Employees aged 55 and over place higher importance on having clean spaces (58%) and lunchrooms (51%), while the younger age group (under 34) places importance on a modern office (22%) and break-out areas away from desks (14%).

Kevin Obern, Managing Director at OfficeMax, says "Over the last few months, as businesses have been preparing to return to the workplace, we’ve seen a huge focus on areas like soundproofing, introducing quiet booths, and significant investments in technology and cafeteria enhancements."

"Businesses seem to understand that after spending the better part of a year working from home, employees now expect some of those comforts - like high-quality coffee, the ability to concentrate outside of an open-plan environment and ultra-clean workspaces - in the office. These are very obvious links to our time in lockdown.

"That’s encouraging," says Kevin, "but what we’re seeing from this research is that expectations go much deeper than that now. It’s clear that what’s important to workers in an employer has changed over the past couple of years: business values, integrity and doing good matter as much as a competitive remuneration and workplace perks - that’s something all business leaders need to hear and a message we’ll be sharing with our customers and taking on board ourselves," he concludes.

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