Running against many large global studies, their parochial study concludes that Asian workers are “desperate to get back to the office”

While some polls in South-east Asia have indicated that people are getting used to remote-working and hybrid working, one small survey has pointed to the opposite.

According to a study of just 1,750 employees “around the world” (250 each from the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Australia, India, and United Arab Emirates) in September 2020, only 16% of employees in Asia supposedly wanted to continue to work from home full-time after pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Also, 63% of respondents said they enjoyed working from home less now than they did at the start of the pandemic, citing challenges in collaborating with colleagues, struggling to contribute to meetings and missing the social side of office life as the main reasons for wanting to return to the office.

Instead, those employees wanted a hybrid workplace model, where most of their time is spent in the office but they have the flexibility and freedom to work from home when it works best for them or suits the type of work they need to do.

The survey found that among Asian respondents, the ideal balance was on average three days in the office, with a maximum of two days a week working remotely.

The survey also pointed to significant demand from respondents for their employers to invest in better facilities, particularly technologies, to enable this hybrid working balance. The most desired investment by employees was for better video conferencing technologies, which 39% of the 500 employees regionally named as an investment priority.

Has WFH lost its sparkle?

The small survey suggested that many have suffered as a result of being separated from their colleagues, both emotionally and in their work.

  • 51% regionally said they have found working from home less fun as time has passed.
  • 39% said they missed office social life and found it harder to collaborate when working remotely.
  • 31% said they found it difficult to contribute to meetings
  • 29% said they get easily distracted at home
  • 54% of Asian respondents said they prefer formal meeting rooms now
  • 76% of respondents preferred scheduled meetings over impromptu ones
  • Employees in the survey seemed very starkly opposed to the idea of spending more time in co-working spaces (51%)
  • 83% of Asian respondents said they use video conferencing rooms at least once a week
  • 22% said that use them every day on average
  • More than six in 10 people believed that a lack of in-person interaction was one of the key reasons for feeling less connected to their colleagues
  • 63% said that collaborating remotely with colleagues, clients and others does not come naturally

Apparently, most employees in the survey still preferred to spend most of their time at large corporate headquarters, albeit now with more flexibility to work from home some of the time.

The role of the laptop

The ‘Bring Your Own Meeting’ trend that was growing before the pandemic—where employees not only want to use their own devices (Bring Your Own Device), but also their own preferred conferencing solutions—has continued during the pandemic. The study indicated that the laptop is now the single most important thing in most employees’ working lives: 82% of Asian respondents said they could not bear to be parted from it while at work.

Also, 58% of employees preferred to host video calls from their laptop, compared to 17% who preferred in-room systems and 19% who liked to use their smartphone.

Despite the growth of in-room camera use (traditional in-room conferencing systems and USB-based cameras) from 30% to 40% in one year, 65% of employees surveyed still used their laptop camera even when they were in a meeting room. However, more than 65% of respondents complained of camera malfunctions during meetings.

Improving meetings and collaborations

According to Gan Ta Loong, Vice President (APAC, ProAV), Barco, the video conferencing and office communications manufacturer that commissioned this survey: “While the world of work will never be the same again, the immediate reaction to the pandemic—that office life as we know it would end and people would move to universal remote-working for the foreseeable future—already looks to be an overreaction.”

To survive, rebuild and eventually thrive again in the post-pandemic world, Gan said, businesses will need to invest in new technologies, redesign or at least reconfigure their office spaces, and give their employees the tools they need to work in the best way possible, no matter where they are located or how they choose to connect. “If they can make these changes quickly and effectively, they will be ready for the future and ready to deal with the challenges we all face over the coming months and years, and to seize the opportunities that will surely follow.”

According to Gan, the biggest priorities are technologies that improve efficiency and usability and streamline workflows. This underlines the need for meeting technologies to facilitate more connectivity between physical and virtual participants in the future, he said.