COVID-19: Office Reopening Staff Survey Results

COVID-19: Office Reopening Staff Survey Results

COVID-19: Office Reopening Staff Survey Results

19th June, 2020

At Options we have a lot of experience troubleshooting instability in complex global systems, be it networks, storage, etc. Viewing the COVID-19 pandemic through that operational lens, there seems to be conclusive evidence that the lockdowns across the developed world well and truly halted the impact in its tracks. The inference of course is that governments now have the know-how to immediately halt future waves, and perhaps even have the will to move sooner. This BBC article posted today looking at “all-cause-mortality”, perhaps the ultimate system telemetry data, graphically illustrates the impact of the lockdown across different regions in the UK.

Similarly, given different governments adopted subtly different approaches to lockdown, the time of lockdown, and the lifting of the measures, there is a growing body of strong empirical evidence illustrating the effectiveness of these approaches. Our expectation is that there will be more and more quality research to guide governments towards the measures with “the most bang for their buck” in subsequent waves. Caveat that local factors, like the reliance on public transport in certain metro areas will need to be factored in.

In all likelihood, governments will use a much more efficient and targeted approach to lockdown in subsequent waves. Most scientists agree there will be further waves, however government willingness to act and the knowledge to act “smart” could make these much more controlled affairs with a fraction of the economic impact.

With this backdrop we are being asked a lot of questions about business strategy for returning to the office, both from staff and increasingly from our customers. We have offices based in global pandemic hotspots including London and New York, adding an interesting spin to the question.

Earlier this week we conducted a firm wide (and consequently global), fully anonymous staff survey to see what people across the team think about the issues. It turned out to be our biggest survey to date with 75% of staff responding.

Key results:

– 51% of the team want to remain working from home / 49% would avail of the offices if we opened them;

– the split was reasonably consistent across regions, though London had the lowest proportion of people who wanted to return to the office;

– the split was broadly the same from the first ten respondents on, with the remain at home group slightly ahead;

– the biggest factor was public transport commute;

– circa 65% of people without a commute would like to work from the office;

– circa 75% of respondents with a commute want to remain working from home;

– 91% of respondents would like home working to be part of their work model in the long term, post COVID.

We’ll run the survey again in 4-6 weeks with two added questions to drill in a little more:

– coarse age, < 35 vs > 35, to see if age is a factor;

– whether or not the respondent has children, as home schooling and the like added a lot of complexity for some people, and the return to school post-COVID is set to add even more.

Perhaps the most interesting result was the ranking of the various precautionary measures:

– availability of hand sanitiser came out strongly on top as the measure people viewed as most important (we have stockpiled);

– closely followed by adhering to post travel quarantine, anyone who has been on a flight, etc, should not be allowed in the office for 14 days;

– team Options does not believe that temperature checks, masks and gloves move the needle.

A few of these results really made us sit up. Firstly, we are broadly an intelligent, reflective and well-educated group with a heavy systems engineering bent, and second, we’re probably one of the only firms to do a genuine anonymous survey to see what people in their team are really thinking. For example, the view on temperature checks raised an eyebrow given that temperature checks are the headline measure currently being implemented by a number of airports. Not only does the result demonstrate that our team does not believe they are effective, but members of the team who had been quite ill with COVID-19 contacted management to advise that while they had key symptoms like loss of sense of smell and taste, they never had a temperature.

To reflect on public policy around the world:

– a sizeable cohort do want to get back to the office in line with general reopening;

– as a group, the team thinks that travelling via public transport is a bad idea and broadly don’t have a desire to do so at this juncture;

– the team strongly supports some of the most contentious government policies…e.g. quarantine after air travel;

– the implication being that people who want to get on that sun holiday think quarantine is an overreaction, whereas the population at large think it’s a very good idea.

– as a group we believe that temperature checks, masks and gloves are a waste of time, at least in terms of managing the risk profile in an office environment.

In any event we plan to take the survey results on board and open our offices in London, Belfast and New York on a voluntary basis from July 1st. We will implement the government guidelines in the various jurisdictions where we operate, but in addition, we’ll extend our global mandatory 14-day quarantine after air travel.

The operating model needs to reflect the wishes of the 51%, so we’ll continue to allow working from home through August 31st as originally planned and continue to push ahead with a number of programs designed to facilitate even more efficiently distributed working in the longer term.

– Danny Moore, President & CEO

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