For many employees who worked from home during the pandemic, returning to the office is not about sitting at their desk.

It’s about the interpersonal contact with colleagues that can lead to new ideas and insights—things not likely to happen in a video conference.

As vaccinations increase, coronavirus restrictions lift, and more people return to the office, a new LinkedIn survey shows that a majority of employees are looking forward to engaging with their co-workers.

The survey of more than 4,300 people was conducted from May 22 to June 4 as COVID restrictions were slowly rolling back.

Productivity Impact

Only 26% of people fully working remotely for the past year expect a productivity impact from a return to the workplace, the survey shows.

But 51% who worked partially from home and in the office for the last year say a full-time return to the office will help them do more focused work, while 65% of those who never left the workplace are optimistic about everyone returning, the survey shows.

CBIA president and CEO Chris DiPentima says Connecticut employers are eager to get their staff back in the office because they know better things happen when people are in the same space.

Over half of those who worked partially from home and in the office for the last year say a full-time return will help them do more focused work.

“Overall, human beings crave interpersonal relationships and the ability to have those relationships occur in person drives and strengthens social bonds that are critical in order to have a high-functioning team,” he said.

“The collaboration that occurs in person is more natural because you can voice thoughts, ideas, and opinions very easily versus the clumsiness of talking over each other during a video conference or waiting to speak, only to have the meeting leader turn to another topic."

Sometimes, he said, this positive body language and expression can drive higher levels of collaboration.

Innovation, Relationships

Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are most upbeat about having everyone in the same room for a meeting, while millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) are most eager to enjoy workplace perks and see the return to work as valuable in advancing their careers, according to the survey.

Among other findings are that 25% of respondents say dressing for work is a positive, but 32% would prefer to remain in loungewear.

What’s missing for many remote workers is what’s known as the workplace value proposition—the organizational culture and benefits, interacting with colleagues on site—the “why we come to the workplace.”

“Higher levels of collaboration drive higher levels of innovation as the collective team feeds off of ideas and energy, which results in better problem solving and solutions,” DiPentima said.

“And this happens beyond the conference room as collaboration physically takes place in all areas of the office space, including at the water cooler, and other areas where meetings are not planned but where natural interactions occur.”

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, employers want their staff back in the office because they believe productivity increases for some roles, and it allows executives and managers to better assess performance.

SHRM also notes that interacting in person helps employees foster relationships with co-workers, build trust, collaborate more effectively, and advance within the organization, which drives worker productivity and morale.