Preferences on Remote Work Revealed in New Survey

By Hazel Siff
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The traditional office model is a thing of the past. A recent survey conducted by the Foundation for Community Association Research reveals new insights into employee and management preferences. The findings could help ensure a balance and a smooth transition into evolving workplace models.

As we navigate the post-pandemic landscape, the traditional 9-to-5 office model seems to be fading into the past.

A recent survey conducted by the Foundation for Community Association Research reveals insights from more than 800 respondents across 42 states, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, and South Africa. The results shed a light on evolving office trends.

The survey shows employees prefer remote working options and flexibility. When looking for a new job, 71% of respondents reported that they would be more likely to apply to a company with remote work options than one without. Fifty-seven percent reported that they believed a mandatory office requirement would negatively impact their work-life balance. Despite these majorities, 62% also reported that improving employee relationships is a benefit of working in the office.

Results show management executives and business partners are being more flexible; 35% allow remote work indefinitely or require as many as two days per week in the office. Companies, however, report improved collaboration (65%), employee relationships (59%), productivity (47%), and accountability (47%) when employees are in the office.

Kelly Zibell, AMS, PCAM, chair of the Community Association Managers Council, weighs in. “What I’m seeing is that the era of 9-to-5 in the office is gone. … Now, with the ability for meetings to be held remotely, we’re seeing more of a hybrid schedule for most management companies or fully remote offices for most management companies, and that wouldn’t have happened before the pandemic.”

As some management companies start to enforce a return to office at least part time, Zibell emphasizes the importance of weighing the pros and cons and continuing to factor in employee work-life quality, especially in the wake of the pandemic.

“Are they (employees) parents? This is a factor you need to take into consideration when you’re making these decisions,” she explains. “There’s 30% less available child care centers in the U.S. since the pandemic, and so the wait to get your child into one is huge.” Zibell reminds management company executives to be attentive to the way employees’ lives and responsibilities have changed.

The survey indicates mixed feelings among employees regarding current office attendance requirements. In addition to concerns about negative impacts on work-life balance, increased costs associated with commuting and food (61%), increased stress (47%), and caregiving responsibilities (31%) are prevalent.

“If you’re an administrative person who’s already on a tight budget anyway, and now that’s being stretched by the cost of groceries and what’s going on with inflation and taxes, asking them to come back in the office can add a cost to their lives,” says Zibell. “So, you have to balance what the business needs versus what potentially losing an employee means.”

In addition to improvements in employee relationships, employees returning to the office report better collaboration (52%) and accountability (38%). Some respondents also reported improvements in mental health (24%) and focus (26%).

“Businesses function best when the employees and the culture of a company are reinforced through in-person participation,” says Susan Fitzpatrick, CMCA, AMS, PCAM, vice president of ORSID New York property management. “This can be harder in a remote environment. Another benefit of being back in the office is the alleviation of the professional loneliness that can occur.”

“If you’re going to return to the office, be intentional about it,” Zibell suggests. “In-person work makes sense for activities that require in-person interactions, but asking employees to return to the office just to work separately and be on Zoom meetings anyway wouldn’t be very productive.”

As companies navigate back-to-office trends, the key lies in striking a balance between traditional office structures and the flexibility that employees value. “If the company is going to mandate that all employees return to the office, ensure that you have the space and supplies, and allow for adjustment to going back into an office space,” says Dorthea Gwinn, CMCA, AMS, community manager with Access Property Management in Edison, N.J. “Give decent notice for those employees who work from home to find child care.”

In this dynamic landscape, understanding the evolving expectations of employees is crucial to create a workplace that fosters productivity, collaboration, and employee well-being.

Access the Foundation’s office trends survey results here.

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Hazel Siff

Hazel Siff is the associate editor of Community Manager newsletter.