We still love the office, despite those difficult people, and we regard it as our second home, according to new research of New Zealand employees and office landlords.
The new phenomenon of office nostalgia has broken out among Kiwis as we enter the third year of perching at the dining table, up at the kitchen bench or being squeezed into that hot spare bedroom.
Consultants JLL's office sentiment survey says the office remains integral to corporate life and many of us hanker after the old days when we religiously visited five days a week.
Only 2 per cent of us want to WFH permanently.
"Office nostalgia is prominent and most pronounced in outstanding offices, meaning the office has a major role to play in navigating periods of uncertainty," said the JLL study released by Auckland-based research head Gavin Read and senior research analysts Lisa Chen and Hina Imran.
About 85 per cent of us want to be back in the office between two to four days a week to fulltime.
And that's all despite the fear of catching Covid.
"Employees definitely want to camaraderie and work collaboratively and help that wellbeing or the human factor and contact which was so missed during the forced lockdowns," JLL's Read said today.
"You can have those five-minute corridor conversations. In lockdowns, we're all formal and book times for meetings online, but people enjoy the informality of bumping into each other at work," he said.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said New Zealand would move to the red traffic light setting at midnight.
Nine Covid cases in Motueka were confirmed to have the Omicron variant, prompting the decision, Ardern said. They had been in Auckland and attended a wedding, a funeral, an amusement park and the Sky Tower on the weekend of January 15 and 16. These events had well over 100 people.
Omicron was now circulating in Auckland and possibly the Nelson area, if not further, Ardern said.
JLL said 101 employees responded to its questionnaire, 65 per cent of them in Auckland, 16 per cent in Wellington and 12 per cent in Christchurch.
The employees were aged between 25 and 64.
"The pandemic has only accelerated the change of the flexible working model, as many employees were already offered similar working environments. When looking at what type of flexibility was being offered, the hybrid working from home model is the most common, with 55 per cent employees saying this is currently offered, with the use of collaborative space being the next most common offering," the study found.
For a large part of the workforce, working from home presents challenges: lack of a dedicated workspace, interruptions, and social isolation.
As a result, 49 per cent of respondents do not want to work from home on a more frequent basis, implying that the office continues to be an important location for these employees, JLL said.
About 30 per cent have not changed our views about working from home versus working from the office, and the remaining 21 per cent want to work more from the office.
We've also got a wishlist in these Covid days and being further apart from the colleagues is at the top. We want more space between our workstations and the desks not to be too close to each other. We want more meeting rooms where we can collaborate, and designated no-meeting quiet times during the day to concentrate.
We're not paperless yet either. We still need access to a printer and a scanner at home although Andrew Stringer, CBRE's New Zealand boss showed off his new Auckland offices last week and told how four printers had become one.
JLL got 48 responses from property owners who own a widespread portfolio of buildings.
"I've heard even under red people are run a skeleton staff in the office so some people will continue to go in. Human contact needs are a lot more important than initially thought," Read said.
"Younger employees find it harder at home. Training and getting information from more experienced staff is so much harder for them," he said.
The Herald this week reported on many businesses' response to the red alert declared on Sunday morning.
Vodafone asked all staff to work from home till further notice, Spark is running a hybrid system between offices and homes, CBRE is doing the same, ANZ says most of its staff have returned to working from home and IAG had no expectation people would return to the office in January. Fletcher Building is running the hybrid home/office model.
All staff were on-site at Foodstuffs North Island's new Māngere distribution centre, the largest base for food and grocery distribution of non-chilled items. Of the around 900 people in that support office also on the site, many people are working from home.
The JLL study said many months have passed since the first lockdown was implemented, and the pandemic had created a seismic shift in working and living patterns.
"Occupiers adapted to home working in compliance with health and safety guidelines and revealed an appetite for greater flexibility and new hybrid ways of working. However, our survey shows the office is clearly here to stay: 218 responses split between employees, occupiers or employers and property owners reveals the office will be more important now than ever before as the centre of the work ecosystem, and that outstanding office environments will remain a critical way to engage employees," the study said.
Even though we are under the red traffic light system as of Sunday, JLL said its objective was to understand New Zealand's sentiment towards the office from the perspectives of employees, occupiers and landlords.