While most employees in India are willing to return to the office at least a few times a week, a new Cisco study found that most employees believe offices are not ready for the new way of working. The study, which examines employee and employer attitudes about current workspaces, revealed that workspace design, layout and technology have not kept pace with changing employee expectations.
Titled “From Mandate to Magnet: The Race to Reimagine Workplaces and Workspaces for a Hybrid Future,” the study found that 96% of companies in India have mandated a full or partial return to the office with productivity, team communication, and leadership pressure as key drivers.
Contrary to the popular belief that most workers are reluctant to go back to the office, seven out of 10 (76%) employees in India responded positively to their organisation’s mandate to return to the office, and 82% of employee respondents expressed a desire to return to the office at least a few times per week.
“Our study reveals that employees across the region have embraced hybrid work and are willing to return to the office more often, but with a caveat, workspaces must adapt to their evolving needs and expectations,” said Sandeep Mehra, Managing Director Collaboration Sales, Cisco APJC. “In the era of hybrid work, we must prioritise the evolution of our office spaces and technology to meet the needs of employees. Technology has become critical in delivering on these expectations to promote productivity and a collaborative environment – no matter an employees’ location.”
Despite the positive reception to the office return, employees’ motives for in-office work have significantly evolved. The main reason for their return is not individual work, but rather to collaborate (80%), ideate and brainstorm with colleagues (53%) and foster a sense of belonging (58%). This shift signifies a change in employee expectations and needs for their workspaces.
Workspaces do not reflect changing employee needs
The study highlights that workspaces are not ready for this new way of working. Across India, when referring to office layouts and seating arrangements, 64% of employees feel these are not conducive to collaboration and brainstorming purposes. While there is a growing emphasis on collaboration, 85% of employers surveyed still allocate at least half of their offices to individual workspaces.
Employees feel that individual workstations (40%), large (48%) and small (58%) meeting rooms are ineffective at boosting productivity in the office, or only do so moderately at best.
Technology infrastructure and integration is also an area of concern. Among employers who find meeting rooms ineffective in boosting in-office productivity, the main reasons are insufficient audio and video endpoints (48%) poor quality of audio-visual experience (59%), lack of inclusive audio and video endpoints (50%) and inconsistency in the experience for remote and in-office participants (57%). On average, just over half (54%) of the meeting rooms across organisations are equipped with video and audio capabilities.
On a positive note, the study reveals that organisations are making progress to transform their office spaces. Eight out of 10 employers have already made changes post-pandemic and 90% plan to do so in the next two years. The main drivers of transformation include adapting to technological advancements (70%), meeting changing employee expectations for workspaces (67%) and better enabling hybrid work (50%).
“Employers’ progress in deploying collaborative technologies for hybrid work is commendable, but simply providing the tools isn’t enough. Most employees don’t feel prepared to use them effectively,” said Sandeep. “As an example, only 48% of employees feel highly equipped to use video conferencing and just 36% feel well-equipped to use advanced tools like footprint monitoring or smart meeting room assistants. We need to focus on integrating these tools into the workplace to facilitate a smooth transition to this new work normal and ensure these technologies are accessible and user-friendly for all.”
The study is based on a double-blind survey of 9,200 full-time employees and 1,650 employers surveyed in November 2023. Respondents are from seven Asia Pacific markets including Australia, Hong Kong, India, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and South Korea.