‘Virtual Fatigue’ Could Bring Back the On-Site Office

‘Virtual Fatigue’ Could Bring Back the On-Site Office

As the pandemic saga continues, workers who may have enjoyed working from home for a while are now tiring of the experience. Even those whose jobs seemed an ideal fit for remote work report experiencing “virtual fatigue,” described in a Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) report as “feelings of disengagement…disconnection from colleagues…and lacking a sense of purpose in their organization.” JLL senior managing director Dan Adamski said of the results of the survey, which included more than 3,300 office workers around the globe, are early warning signs that companies could begin to experience higher turnover rates and lower productivity if they cannot bring employees back to the office.

The issue is at least partially one of emotional disconnection, JLL analysts explained. “Our ongoing research shows that office employees are consistently experiencing feelings of disengagement and virtual fatigue,” Adamski said. He added that only about one-third of respondents feel they have maintained strong work or personal relationships with colleagues and about the same number feel they are still more productive at home than in the office. Nearly half believed they were more productive at home in April 2020. Two-thirds of respondents said they missed “human interaction” the most of all the things they missed about work, but nearly half said they missed “collective face-to-face” work and “clear personal and professional boundaries” almost as much.

Adamski predicted that the use of office space, which has trailed off during the COVID-19 pandemic, could pick up again in the New Year. However, important changes will make office real estate attractive to returning employees and employers seeking space that might attract employees and prevent the ongoing “Great Resignation” currently underway as many employees simply quit work due to fatigue and discouragement. According to the Bizjournals.com, “Working and living priorities have also changed…. Factors such as high broadband speed, natural light, outdoor space, and optimum air quality” are more important now than they were pre-pandemic.

Adamski said, “There is a unique opportunity for leadership and office managers to consider the kind of experience their workplaces create for employees.” He added, “Following months of research, it is our belief the office will remain an invaluable hub for work, on the condition it meets the new priorities of today’s workforce.” Those priorities, JLL analysts wrote, include “an increased focus on health and well-being, flexible work arrangements, and creating a purposeful office.”

This information can be applied to single- and multifamily real estate investments as well. Since most families with children will likely experience recurring needs to work from home due to restrictions from schools and intermittent quarantines, investors who renovate properties with an eye toward creating one or even two private or semi-private work spaces will likely find their properties commanding higher price tags both for sale and rent.