Companies to shrink offices as work stays remote

Offices, such as this one in Toronto, probably will stay mostly vacant until the coronavirus pandemic ends. Cole Burston/Bloomberg

More than half of companies plan to shrink their offices as working from home becomes a regular fixture after the coronavirus pandemic ends, according to a survey by Cisco Systems.

About 53% of larger organizations plan to reduce the size of their office space, and more than three-quarters will increase work flexibility. Almost all of the respondents were uncomfortable returning to work because they fear contracting the virus, the poll found.

Cisco, the largest maker of networking equipment, recently surveyed 1,569 executives, knowledge workers and others who are responsible for employee environments once the novel coronavirus is in check. The findings suggest that many of this year’s radical changes to work life will remain long after the pandemic subsides.

The poll, conducted for Cisco by Dimensional Research, concluded that working from home is the “new normal.” More than 90% of respondents said they won’t return to the office full time; 12% plan to work from home all the time, 24% will work remotely more than 15 days of each month, and 22% will do that 8 to 15 days every month.

Cisco’s Webex video conferencing service has benefited from lockdowns that have kept millions of people working and studying from home. It’s also faces rising competition from Zoom.

For employees who do return to the office, Webex is adding environmental sensors that plug into its current video-conferencing gear. That will help companies identify over-used and under-utilized spaces while complying with room capacity limits and checking whether workers are wearing masks.

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