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The Return to the Office

Updated: Sep 11, 2020

Covid-19 Lifestyle + Workplace Survey Results

Thank you to everyone who participated in our recent survey. We received over 320 responses from across the United States, and even as far as London, Hong Kong, and Chile. When answering the questions, we asked our survey respondents to assume that Stay-at-Home orders have been lifted, but there is not yet a COVID-19 vaccine available. Our goal is to understand the public’s attitudes towards anticipated future behaviors.

Here is what we found…

25% of people surveyed currently live with someone who has a pre-existing health condition.

72% of people surveyed stated that YES the people I live with will influence the precautions that I take.

Similarly, 72% of people surveyed stated that YES I will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when in public.

We asked:

During the Covid-19 pandemic, does your current occupation allow you to work from home?

66% of people surveyed stated that YES I will wear personal protective equipment (PPE) when in the workplace.

An additional 19% were unsure, and only 15% said NO they will not wear PPE in the workplace.

We asked:

Will you feel comfortable going to work in a shared workplace?

We asked:

What are your biggest fears or concerns, if any, with going back to the office?

This was posed as an open-ended question. Below are the most common answers.

Commuting via public transportation

Asymptomatic spread of the virus to friends, family, or other coworkers

Coworkers coming to work when ill, or being exposed to others who are not taking precautions

Germs within community spaces of the office – elevators, restrooms, kitchens, etc.

Arranging childcare

Contracting the virus and/or contracting the virus and spreading to friends and family

Outside customers or consultants coming into the office who are not taking safety precautions

Inadequate office layout - not being able to maintain social distancing or a germ-free environment

Precautions not being enforced

“[My biggest fear in going back to the office is] that I could bring the virus back home, having to use public transportation for commuting, which could also harbor a lot of germs, and others not sticking to precautionary measures…”

We asked:

What policies would make you feel safer when going to your workplace?

We asked:

Are there any items or practices you would like to see implemented into the workplace to make you feel more at ease?

This was posed as an open-ended question. Below are the most common answers.

  • Touch free everything (doors, faucets,fixtures, etc)

  • Improved ventilation

  • Sanitizing stations

  • Staggered shifts, flexible hours

  • More space

  • Private offices

  • PPE equipment provided by employer

  • Constant cleaning

“…that management puts in place the proper cleaning routines, and rules for staff to follow to keep everyone as healthy and safe as possible. It is a time for mindfulness of what we are doing and caring about how we affect other people.”

We asked:

Ideally, how often would you go into the workplace?

“I do not like working from home! Home is my space for downtime. I enjoy having a place to go to be efficient. I also miss social interactions with my coworkers. Working from home has gone pretty smoothly so far, but I find it frustrating at times to have to wait for someone to look at Slack or check their email instead of just asking a question in person.”

We asked:

Ideally, how often would you work from home?

We asked: What do you miss most about working your workplace?

This was posed as an open-ended question. Below are the most common answers.

  • Socializing

  • Spontaneous interactions

  • Ease of collaboration

  • Office resources

  • Defined work space with items like a formal desk or additional monitor

  • Separation of work and home

  • Workplace energy

  • Child free environment

“The people! Client engagement. Serendipitous brainstorming meetings where our best ideas result from [is what I miss most about the workplace].”
"Social interaction. I miss getting coffee with colleagues, being able to stop by and discuss something quickly, not having to schedule even a shared break."

We asked:

What do you enjoy most about working from home?

This was posed as an open-ended question. Below are the most common answers.

  • More time with family and loved ones

  • More time for healthy cooking and eating

  • More time to sleep in

  • More time to getting laundry or household chores done during breaks

  • Less time commuting

  • Less time getting ready

  • More flexibility over dress code

  • More flexibility to control your daily schedule

  • More flexibility to schedule quiet time

Fewer interruptions! Greater personal control of schedule, timing, day flow. The quiet. Being in my home which I so much love. Working with windows open and plants around me boosts my spirit.
Eliminating the “getting ready for work” and travel time has opened up more opportunity to focus on other things that are important to me like working out, eating better, staying active, more time to think about bigger picture ideas for work, and do small chores throughout the day. Feels more manageable vs. having to stuff everything on the weekends.

We asked:

Which of the following modes of transport would you feel comfortable taking?

We asked:

Which of the following activities would you feel comfortable partaking in?


So, what happens next?

Though our world is ever changing and evolving, the thoughtful survey responses we received have given us insight into the feelings surrounding workplace comfort in the COVID-19 climate. Here is what you should know as we gear up to head back to the office.

For Everyone:

  • Practice social distancing and maintain your own personal hygiene. Though some may have no fears about the contracting the virus, there are others who may live with those who have compromised health, and we all need to do our part to stop the spread.

  • Feeling ill? Stay home. Pre-Covid there may have been the attitude that going to work while sick shows your dedication to the job, but that notion is gone. Your fellow coworkers will feel uncomfortable being around anyone under the weather.

  • Be patient. This is a unique time in all our lives, and solutions will adapt and improve over time.

For Employers:

  • Put safety policies into place. Our results show that 46% of people surveyed would feel comfortable coming back to work IF their employer put practices into place to increase safety.

  • Strictly enforce these safety policies. Your employees do not want to take on the responsibility of becoming rule enforcers.

  • Spread Out. Remove seats in conference rooms, and even remove seats at workstations to allow for more space between each.

  • Keep community spaces where you can. Our survey responses stated that what people miss most about coming into the office is socializing and spontaneous collaboration. Keep the function of your open areas, but reduce the amount of seating and physical items to allow for personal space.

  • Make it touch-less. Rethink any fixtures that need to be touched by hand to operate. Consider installing touch-less plumbing fixtures and motion activated devices where possible.

  • Provide at home amenities to your employees. As things currently stand, working from home will be a part of our reality for the foreseeable future. Consider providing your employees with tools to help them work from home more comfortably. Do you have extra desks or task chairs in storage that your employees could use at home? Offering up resources could go a long way to improve your employee’s well-being.

  • Be flexible. Consider staggering workdays for different employees. This will not only allow more physical space in the office, but also give your employees freedom to work from home. From our results, what people enjoy most about working from home is the time they gain back from commuting, and the flexibility they have gained. Keep employees happy by trusting them to control their schedule.

For Building Owners:

  • Keep community areas clean. Provide thorough daily cleanings and hand sanitizing stations throughout the building. Require that all tenants wear face masks when in common areas. Restrooms will need to be cleaned multiple times per day. If not already installed, consider adding touch-less restroom fixtures.

  • Control the traffic within elevators. Limit the amount of people allowed in a single elevator cab and allow tenants to take the stairs.

  • Increase parking. We have found that most of our survey respondents will not feel comfortable taking public transportation, and will feel most comfortable in their personal vehicle, whether it is a car or even bike. Consider increasing the amount of parking spaces and/or add secure bicycle parking.

Disclaimer: We are not scientists or statisticians. We are designers with a desire to understand what our fellow humans need from their environment during this unprecedented time.



Responses came from employees in the following fields:

  • Architects + Designers

  • Healthcare Workers

  • Hospitality Workers

  • Small Business and Business Owners

  • Executives

  • Finance Workers

  • Construction Workers

  • Engineers

  • Customer Service + Sales Representatives

  • Administrative Staff

  • And many others!

Age of Respondents:

  • 47% Ages 30-45

  • 32% Ages 45-60

  • 13% Ages 18-30

  • 6% Ages 60+

Local Population of Respondents:

  • 60% City (250,000+)

  • 22% Urbanized Area (50,000-250,000)

  • 13% Urban Cluster (2,500-50,000)

  • 2% Rural

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When I took this survey, I felt a little more confident about going back to work. Now that things are opening up, I'm more hesitant and would like to stay home and protected awhile longer. I really loved the comment about being able to work with the windows open and among plants... this has been a lovely aspect of WFH!

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