As states gradually reopen their economies and workers reenter the workforce, many office managers are likely rethinking office configurations. Upon a return to the workplace, 51 percent of workers expect office partitions to be installed between workstations, according to a survey recently conducted by venture-backed office furniture startup company Branch.
Between May 12 and May 27 Branch surveyed 223 office workers who were past clients, visitors to their website and others within their wider network about their feelings on returning to the office in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Most respondents were from New York and California, at 26 and 14 percent respectively, with other respondents hailing from locales across different parts of the U.S. and Canada.
“If there has been one common thread among the dozens of startups and large businesses our team has spoken to that are looking to reopen their offices safely and responsibly, it’s the need for partitions and dividers in the workplace,” Greg Hayes, CEO and co-founder of Branch, told Inman in an email. “Employers want an easy and effective way to create distance between workstations without breaking the bank.”
Branch’s survey also found that most office workers are content to remain working home for the foreseeable future. Forty-four percent of workers reported that they strongly preferred to work from home rather than make a return to the office.
Meanwhile, 60 percent of workers said they expect colleagues to wear face masks in the workplace when they do return to work. Most survey respondents also stated that they either feel comfortable or neutral toward wearing a mask at their place of work, with 63 percent of respondents feeling this way.
Although responses were widely split, most workers reported that they needed more time before feeling comfortable enough to return to the office. Twenty-six percent of respondents said they’d be comfortable returning next year, while 25 percent said they’d be comfortable next quarter and 22 percent reported feeling unsure about when they would want to return. Only 13 percent reported feeling comfortable returning to work now.
Survey results also revealed, however, that management seems to be uncertain about the return to the office too. In response to a question about how well organizations were clearly communicating what a return to the workplace will look like, answers were spread across the board. Only 22 percent of respondents strongly agreed that their organization clearly communicated what a return to work would like like, while 26 percent strongly disagreed that their organization had communicated this information effectively.
In response to the survey results and increased market demand, Branch was inspired to create a new collection of office dividers in conjunction with L.A.-based design agency Emblem, which will be launched to the public on Thursday. While the office dividers come across as sleek and professional, they were in fact inspired by the velcro and cardboard-constructed playhouse of Emblem co-founders Lindsay and Jeffrey Braun’s children, created in the midst of quarantine play.
“Just as we finished our prototype of a sofa and chair design for Branch, news of the coronavirus broke,” Lindsay told Inman in an email. “Not long after, the entire nation went on lockdown and both Emblem and Branch had to reconsider the paths our companies would take to serve our customers in a post-COVID-19 world.”
“We’re excited to launch our new collection of partitions in collaboration with Emblem to help teams of all sizes work together again while maintaining their distance,” Hayes said.