Half-Empty Offices in Flexible Work Arrangements: Why are Employees Not Returning?

by   Darja Smite, et al.

Although the pandemic times of the world-wide forced working from home seem to be in the past, many knowledge workers choose to continue working predominantly from home as a partial or permanent practice. Related studies show that employees of companies from various industries, diverse in size and location, prefer to alter working in the office with working at home, coined as hybrid or flexible working arrangements. As a result, the post-pandemic times are associated with empty offices, confused managers and organizational leaders not knowing what to do with the often-expensive rental contracts. In this paper, we investigate the employee presence in the offices in two software companies and dive deeper into the reasons behind the preferences to work remotely, practices that help to attract employees back into the offices and, in cases when this is not possible, the ways companies can repurpose the office space for the future needs of their employees. The latter are based on the qualitative analysis of interviews and survey responses. Our findings suggest that since the fall 2021 the offices were half-empty and that, on average, the daily office presence varies between 15-30 include behavioural and practical motivations, as well as factors related to office equipment and facilities, and the nature of the work tasks. Finally, we discuss the practical implications of our findings on the future work arrangements.


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