The Rise of In-Person Work: 6 Things the Numbers Are Telling Us

Workspace flexibility remains a high priority for facility managers, especially now that the in-person workforce sector is growing again. Consequently, workspace flexibility remains a top concern for commercial properties and tenants. To help facility managers effectively plan for these changing workforce needs, here is the latest workforce data from SIMPLAR’s June 2023 International Facilities Management Association (IFMA) presentation–Return to the Office: Latest Trends, Developments, and Practices.

The current US civilian workforce totals 167.45 million people, with 61.1% working in construction, manufacturing, and service industries that cannot be performed remotely. Of those remaining 65 million jobs, only 4.5% (2.92 million) worked remotely from home before the pandemic. During the workforce shutdowns, that number rose sharply to 61.5% (nearly 40 million). As of June 2023, that number is 27.2% (17.68 million), and many agree this is the new baseline moving forward.

Pew Research surveyed 45K people over 16 weeks and found that 30% of remote workers work from home all the time. This number is down from 43% in January 2023 and its peak of 55% in October 2022. The survey also shows that 47% of businesses polled do not anticipate downsizing their workplace despite a previous reduction in the number of people working in person for two key reasons:

● Many of these groups are locked into contracts for their current workplace locations and infrastructure systems. 

● Others feel that it’s better to remain in their current location due to the economic uncertainties than to find a similarly sized space in the future.

While the remote worker numbers are decreasing, the work-from-home (WFH) and hybrid workforces are here to stay. Facilities management must actively participate in any construction project’s planning and design stages to maintain flexibility and adaptability for these changing workforce needs. For example, raised access flooring systems provide the cabling infrastructure needed today and the adaptability to handle future workforce and technology changes.

Reasons Workers Are Opting for The Workspace

Many companies have found that remote working only provides a universal benefit for some business models or physical locations. According to Forbes, 53% of remote workers report feeling disconnected from their coworkers. Here are six reasons why the number of in-person workers will continue to increase. 

Collaboration and Innovation

Specific business tasks and projects are more effectively handled through in-person collaboration and hands-on demonstrations. Employers may find that physically present workers facilitate better communication between individuals and teams, resulting in innovative products and services.

Company Culture and Morale

Maintaining a strong company culture and fostering employee morale is often easier when employees work in the same physical space. Some organizations believe in-person interactions are essential for creating a positive and more productive work environment.

Client and Customer Interaction

Companies in the retail, hospitality, and specific service industries rely on customer interactions as an essential component of their business model. Adding more in-person workers can dramatically improve the customer experience by providing a more personalized experience.

Productivity and Performance

Some employers believe the in-person workspace provides the structure necessary to enhance employee productivity and overall job performance. The ability to closely monitor and provide immediate employee feedback benefits some companies or business models.

Employee Preferences

While remote work has become more prevalent, not all employees prefer remote work over the in-person workspace. Some individuals may choose the in-person work option due to the social aspects and separation of work from home life.

Regulatory and Compliance Requirements

Specific industries with strict regulations and compliance standards may require in-person work over remote options to ensure adherence to legal or confidentiality requirements and accepted industry standards.

While the number of in-person workers continues growing, the WFH and hybrid workforce is expected to employ nearly 18 million workers across the US. As businesses adapt to another worker migration, having a flexible workplace is essential from a human resource and building infrastructure perspective as it supports team members and contributes to the company’s overall success.