What one Utah tech company's return to the office tells us about the future of workspaces

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(Graphiq)



SALT LAKE CITY — One of Utah's leading tech companies is returning to the office — kind of — after internal polling showed that different types of employees thrive in different workspaces.

Qualtrics, a Provo-based tech company that offers experience management software, decided to reach out to its own employees to see what type of return to the office they'd like to see.

"Our goal is to create a work experience that combines the best of in-person collaboration with the best of virtual work," said Qualtrics CEO Zig Serafin in the company's Friday announcement of their return-to-office plan. "We expect the majority of our employees will work from a Qualtrics office approximately three days a week and will spend the other days working wherever they're happiest and most productive."

The announcement follows a study Qualtrics conducted of 4,000 employees across various industries in the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand, which found that the majority of employees wanted the flexibility the pandemic has offered their work lives to continue. However, employees also wanted to return to the office at least some days of the week. Whether or not they could live remotely from their next job would be an important consideration while applying, 80 percent of people said.

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In Qualtrics' internal polling, Serafin explained that 80% of high-performing female workers shared they are more productive working remotely, as well as 90% of high-performing female managers and senior leaders. However, fewer than 5% of Qualtrics employees prefer staying at home entirely, compared to 7% of employees in external research.

External research by Qualtrics also showed that while only 23% of people across various industries want to work full-time in the office, 73% want to work remotely at least once or twice per week.

Essentially, both reports suggest that the hybrid model of returning to the office is now the preferred option for workers.

Google,Facebook, Microsoft and Uber have also all announced returns to the office on a hybrid model after internal polling.


You know, the idea of creating that for myself, that balance, is really appealing to me.

–Sydnee Christiansen, Qualtrics legal team member


For employees like Sydnee Christensen, who oversees labor and employment topics for Qualtrics' legal team and delivered a baby a week after transitioning to work from home, the hybrid model represents the best of both at-home and in-office work.

"I quickly saw all the ups and downs of working from home," Christensen said of the past year. "The ability to take a break in the middle of the day and feed my baby was so nice, but I also missed collaborating live and seeing people live. You kinda get sick of seeing yourself all day in Zoom."

Christensen explained that the hybrid model offered her the best work-life balance. "I've set a day or two where I don't personally go to the office — maybe those are the days where I can clear my day of meetings and do the deep project work. ... In balancing my schedule, maybe that's the day where I go on a longer walk outside or have some family lunchtime. You know, the idea of creating that for myself, that balance, is really appealing to me."

As women have been disproportionately forced to drop out of the workforce due to the pandemic and the inability to access child care, flexible work schedules can offer solutions to bridge inequalities. Rather than forcing parents to choose between careers and staying at home, hybrid options allow parents to do both in a way they are comfortable with.

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Lauren Johnson, a legal assistant for a local law firm that is allowing employees to return to the office however frequently or infrequently they like, says that she's seen the flexibility benefit her co-workers.

"I know my one co-worker has three kids. For her, it's been so much easier. She had a flexible schedule before but this is a whole new level," Johnson said, explaining how her co-worker could log off to take her kids to appointments and log back on after they went to sleep at 8 p.m. to finish her work.

Personally, though, Johnson prefers to work from home.

"I am a lot more productive at the house than I am at the office," Johnson said. "Our office is very social."

When Johnson returned to the office, she said she realized she was only able to complete a fraction of her usual work due to how many of her co-workers wanted to talk.

"When I'm at home, you know, because I don't have roommates or family there, I can just plow through everything very focused and just get everything done," Johnson explained.


I am a lot more productive at the house than I am at the office.

–Lauren Johnson, legal assistant for a local law firm


Beyond the work itself being easier to complete, working from home also made Johnson's daily routine easier, she said. "I can go down and put something into the oven a half hour before I'm actually done with work and by the time I finish work, it's done and food's ready. I log off and now it's dinner time. If my friends want to do something, I can say, 'Great, I'm off at 6!' and be there at 6:05 p.m. There's no commute, there's no 'someone wants to talk to you at the office.'"

But perhaps most important for workers like Johnson, working at least partially from home can make time away from the office easier to enjoy. As Johnson said, "For me, the logging off is a lot easier. It's a lot easier to walk away."

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