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How to entice employees back to the office

People return to work in Philadelphia
Reuters/Hannah Beier
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It might be time to put hot desking—the popular practice where in-office employees sit at any available workstation instead of an assigned desk—on the back burner.

A new report from the American furniture company Steelcase, finds an assigned workspace in the office is the top consideration for employees weighing optimal hybrid work scenarios.

Conducted in late 2021, the global survey suggests those currently working from home might be ready to head back to the office, given the right parameters. Overall, just over half (55%) of the nearly 5,000 respondents said that they’d be willing to work fewer days remotely if they were given “privacy, comfort, and control within the office.”

Office workers in China were by far the most interested in having their own desk. By contrast, office workers in Australia, Canada, and Britain were fairly ambivalent about claiming a personal space in the office—the majority of respondents in those countries said they’d opt for remote work over an assigned desk if forced to make a choice. American workers were evenly divided on the matter.

Giving employees their own desks “signals to people they belong and also gives them the latitude to personalize the space and make it their own, which is more important than many leaders realize,” the report states. 

Researchers learned that most workers have become accustomed to having dedicated spaces for focused work at home during the pandemic and they’re seeking the same in their corporate headquarters. They observed that those forced to share desks or work in random nooks in a communal workspace “felt unsettled if they didn’t have a clear place to call home in the office.”

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