Categories: BusinessNewsOpinion
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2023-12-09 10:39 AM

South African Workplace Evolution: Bridging Employee-Office Disconnect

  • Discrepancy between employee preferences and office attendance: Despite expressing a desire to utilize office spaces for around two-thirds of a typical work week, employees are physically present for only half that time, signaling a significant gap between their stated preferences and actual attendance.
  • Diverse needs based on demographics: Different demographic groups, such as Gen Z, millennials, individuals with varying commuting distances, and those with different family arrangements, showcase distinct preferences for office hours and work environments, emphasizing the need for tailored workplace solutions.
  • Call for adaptable and inclusive workspaces: The article emphasizes the necessity for office spaces to evolve, becoming more flexible and personalized to accommodate the diverse needs, behaviors, and preferences of employees, fostering an environment that celebrates individuality while promoting collective productivity and growth.
By Miriam Matoma


In the wake of the global pandemic, the landscape of work has undergone a monumental transformation, propelling a shift in how employees perceive and utilize office spaces. According to Linda Trim, Director at Giant Leap, a leading workplace design consultancy in South Africa, there exists a significant disparity between what employees articulate about office hours and the desired ‘vibes’ they seek while at work.

“Over the past four years, work dynamics and the workforce itself have undergone enduring changes,” Trim emphasizes. “We’ve witnessed an unprecedented evolution where remote work became a norm, technological advancements facilitated cross-boundary collaborations, and individuals discovered their optimal work modalities, whether independently or in collaboration.”

However, this evolution has led to a notable dissonance between employee aspirations and their actual engagement within office settings. A study conducted by Gensler surveyed 4,000 office workers across nine countries and 10 industries, revealing that while employees express a preference for utilizing the office for approximately two-thirds of a standard work week, their physical presence averages around half that time.

“This disparity signals a crucial need for employers to recalibrate office spaces, making them more appealing and adaptable to accommodate the diverse requirements and behaviors of their workforce,” Trim notes.

Furthermore, Trim highlights the emerging consciousness surrounding the unique circumstances of employees, acknowledging diverse life stages, living conditions, family arrangements, and commuting patterns.

“In reimagining the future of workplaces, it’s imperative to craft environments that revolve around people, offering flexibility and customization to cater to their varied needs and behaviors,” Trim emphasizes.

The study also underscores a noticeable generational divergence, particularly among Gen Z and millennials, who exhibit a wider gap between their stated need for office attendance (64-65% of a typical week) and their actual presence (43-44%).

The survey delves deeper into specific demographic segments, revealing that employees with young children prefer extended office hours beyond the conventional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., while those with older children lean towards partial days. Commuting distances also play a pivotal role, with employees enduring longer commutes showing reduced office attendance but staying for extended periods when present. Conversely, individuals living closer to the office express a desire for slightly less time at the workplace.

Moreover, there exists a divergence in desired office atmospheres, with some advocating for quieter, less crowded spaces while others prefer vibrant, bustling environments.

Giant Leap advocates for comprehensive adaptations in the design of future workspaces, emphasizing the following key aspects:

  1. Flexibility and Tailoring: Introduce versatile office layouts to accommodate the diverse needs of employees.
  2. Diversity in Planning: Move away from standardized office designs towards customized settings that acknowledge individual requirements.
  3. Recognition of Unique Needs: Acknowledge and integrate individual life stages, living conditions, and commuting patterns into office design considerations.

Trim concludes, “Workspaces must evolve in synchrony with the dynamic nature of work and the evolving needs of those who inhabit them. This evolution won’t just foster inclusivity but will also celebrate the uniqueness of individuals working together, fostering an environment conducive to growth, learning, and impactful collaborations.”

In essence, the shifting paradigms in work culture demand a proactive approach in redefining office spaces to accommodate the diverse spectrum of needs and preferences prevalent among South African employees.

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Miriam Matoma

Miriam is a freelance writer, she covers economics and government news for Rateweb. You can contact her on: Email: miriam@rateweb.co.za Twitter: @MatomaMiriam