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Industry & Trends

Execs Want Workers to Return to Business Offices, But Details Sparse

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April 20, 2021 | Bill Esler

New York, NY – As the COVID-19 pandemic wanes, a survey by WB Wood, a commercial furniture dealership in the northeastern U.S., says executives plan to have employees return to work in their offices. But just when, and whether the pandemic-era work-from-home strategy will be part of the mix, is still uncertain. 

Chart of target dates for return to the office

Target dates for return to the office (from top row): Q2 – 39.1%; Q3 – 22%; Q4 – 9.8%; Q1 2022 – 6.5%. No plans yet: 22.5%.

“In our daily conversations with corporate clients and business prospects, my colleagues and I anecdotally see gathering interest for a full-time return to the office, but the results of this formal survey provide statistical evidence of the trend,” says Rich Mines, CEO of WB Wood. The plans will impact office furniture manufacturers and architectural woodworking firms who build out commercial spaces. 

Mines says many businesses may be underestimating the changes needed to optimize workplaces for health and safety and accommodate the evolving requirements of a hybrid work model in which employees blend working from different locations, including home, on the go, or the office.

Fewer than one out of five businesses (18.3%) have already reconfigured their spaces, and 21% are planning to make either modest or substantial adjustments to their spaces. Another 8% of respondents said they are not sure how to reconfigure their office space.

Among those business executives who are making changes to their offices, optimizing floor plans tops the list of redesign priorities (17.7%), followed by integrating new technology (12.8%) and implementing aesthetics that promote wellness (7.4%).

The findings show that 41.5% of business executives are planning a full-time return to the office, and 39.4% are planning for a hybrid model, i.e., splitting employees’ time between working remotely and in the office. Fewer than one in five executives (19.1%) expect working remotely to be a permanent solution.

Although 80.9% of executives are planning for either a full-time return to the office or a hybrid work model, more than half (52.8%) of the survey respondents say they have no plans to reconfigure their office space.

WB Wood conducted the survey via Google Surveys from March 18, 2021 to March 30, 2021 and screened 3,651 participants to include 208 qualified responses from the c-suite, senior executives, founders, and board members who have decision-making authority or input regarding their companies’ office space. Respondents were men and women aged 35-65+ who reside in the Northeastern United States.

WB Wood, founded in 1905, is recognized as a prominent furniture dealership and management company based in the New York metro region serving clients across the U.S. with a full range of procurement, furniture, and project management services to organizations, working with and partnering alongside architects, design firms and consultants. 

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