Three-quarters (76 per cent) of Canadian employers are mandating employees return to the office partially or full time, citing productivity, team communication and workplace culture as key drivers for the decision, according to a new survey by Cisco Systems Inc.

The survey, which polled 150 Canadian employers and 500 employees, found nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) of employees positively support their organization’s decision, citing collaboration (58 per cent), ideation (27 per cent) and fostering connections with colleagues (28 per cent).

More than a third of employers expressed a preference for having employees work mostly in the office (37 per cent) or mainly from home (34 per cent), while 24 per cent preferred a hybrid mix. A similar percentage of employees expressed preference for working mostly from the office (34 per cent),  mostly from home (30 per cent) and in a hybrid fashion (29 per cent).

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While a majority (83 per cent) of employers said they allocate at least half the office to individual workstations, just 40 per cent of employees said their offices are very well prepared to support changing hybrid work needs.

Employees ranked technology infrastructure and connectivity (93 per cent) as the most important in office design, followed by layout and seating arrangements (90 per cent) and collaboration and meeting spaces (86 per cent). And while 81 per cent of employees agreed artificial intelligence assistant tools would be useful to them, only 61 per cent of employers said they intend to invest in these features.

As well, 64 per cent of employers reported they’ve redesigned their office in the wake of the pandemic or plan to do so in the next 24 months. Regular enhancements to workspace layouts (63 per cent) and technology features (60 per cent) were the top items for organizations that allocated budgets to office redesign.

“Companies in 2024 need to invest strategically to create spaces that are a magnet for employees,” said Shannon Leininger, president of Cisco Canada, in a press release. “The backbone of modern workspaces lies in robust, AI-enabled technology infrastructure and seamless, secure connectivity. To meet the evolving needs of employees, workspaces will need to be reimagined and built for purpose.”

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