What do employees miss most about the office?

Hybrid working is in, but office workers lament the loss of socialising with colleagues.

A survey of around 1000 Irish office workers shows that socialising with colleagues is what they miss most about the office (53%). They also miss separation between work life and home life (40%) and their routine (35%).

The survey also revealed the biggest challenges facing office workers when working from home. For example, lack of motivation (44%) is the biggest challenge for Gen Z and loneliness and isolation (40%) is a struggle for Millennials.

“Employers have to be mindful that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, with some thriving at home and others craving a return to the office”

The survey – conducted by Censuswide on behalf of IT services player Auxilion and involving around 1,000 office workers in Ireland – found that some 39% of office workers say the pandemic has had a negative impact on their company culture.

Are you in or are you out?

Wexford ranked the highest county in this regard, with 55% of office workers from this area saying the pandemic has had a negative impact on same. This was followed by Kilkenny (53%), Laois (52%), Cavan (50%) and Meath (50%).

Despite this, just over a fifth (21%) of all survey respondents would like to be in the office full time going forward. The highest demand for a return to the office was among workers from Monaghan (56%), Kerry (35%) and Louth (32%).

The study also revealed the biggest challenges for office workers when working from home. These are less separation of personal and work lives (42%), being unable to talk to colleagues face-to-face (40%), loneliness/isolation (39%), a lack of motivation (30%) and non-work distractions (30%).

To break this down generationally, Gen Z respondents say the biggest challenge when working from home is lack of motivation (44%). Meanwhile, Millennials find loneliness/isolation (40%) the most difficult aspect and Gen X say it’s being unable to chat to colleagues face-to-face (46%).

For the Boomer generation, the top challenges were non-work distractions, lack of suitable technology/equipment and loneliness/isolation (36% respectively).

Furthermore, the research found that almost a fifth (18%) of those surveyed took a career break to look after children, parents, or other dependent relatives during the pandemic. In fact, almost half (47%) of Gen Z respondents took a career break for this reason.

Hybrid work is still a new concept and one that many Irish companies still have to figure out in terms of best practice,” said Niamh Cray, head of People and Talent at Auxilion.

“Employers have to be mindful that a one-size-fits-all approach won’t work, with some thriving at home and others craving a return to the office.

“Organisations need to get the balance and their approach right. While greater flexibility is a major benefit for people, businesses must ensure that this doesn’t have an impact on the ability of people to be collaborative, interactive and productive – or jeopardise work/life balance.

“Putting the practical tools and well-thought-out strategies in place to empower workers will be the way forward and will help to create the new workplace. For example, more effective communication tools might be needed or flexible start times could prove beneficial.

“Listening to people is also key and understanding their challenges, whilst helping to overcome them, will also help to rejuvenate company culture. In fact, you could say that these challenges are opportunities to make the employee experience even better than before,” said Gray.

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.