The 2008 U.S.
Workplace Survey

Building on earlier research that confirmed the link between workplace design and employee performance, Gensler’s 2008 survey quantifies how — and how much — the physical work environment makes a specific impact on business success.

This year’s survey results reveal that companies with the most effective workplace environments show higher profits, better employee engagement and stronger brand position.

In a knowledge economy, the new measures of performance are clear: people and place hold the power to drive profit.

Knowledge Work Equals Four Work Modes

Through research and project experience, Gensler has identified the common characteristics of how knowledge economy companies work.

Four work modes — focus, collaborate, learn and socialize — are the shared language of knowledge economy workplaces and are central to the findings of our 2008 survey research.

Respondents projected that work spaces better designed to support these work modes would yield significant improvement for their job performance: 28 percent improvement in focus, 27 percent in collaboration, 27 percent in learning and 23 percent in socializing. Companies, therefore, stand to improve job performance by improving the work environments for all four work modes. (To learn more about the Work Modes, see "The New Science of Work.")

Success in a Knowledge Economy Means Working Differently

Gensler’s research reveals a knowledge economy workplace that is filled with varied and dynamic interactions, not just long hours of solitary work. Top-performing companies spend their time in a very different mix of activities, with more time spent collaborating, learning and socializing than average companies.

These findings provide insight into the complex equation of what creates value in a knowledge economy: companies can improve work by examining their proportion of the four work modes, and can learn from the example of top-performing companies that derive greater economic value from the collaboration, learning and socializing modes.

Top-performing Company Workplaces Support All Four Work Modes

Understanding that workplace improvements can help people focus, collaborate, learn and socialize better, Gensler survey questions delved deeper into how effectively today’s workplaces support knowledge workers.

Findings indicate that top-performing companies not only place greater value on the non-focus work modes, but they provide better designed spaces that support employees across all of the varied activities they engage in on a daily basis.

Gensler's Workplace Performance Index(SM)

Determining exactly what is driving space effectiveness up or down allows companies to design a workplace that better supports work modes, improves employee performance and, ultimately, the bottom line.

Gensler established its Workplace Performance Index® (WPI) measurement and analysis tool for work environments to help clients understand what comprises workplace space effectiveness so that appropriate design solutions can be created. The WPI tool measures workplace effectiveness through a formula that combines criticality, time and space effectiveness for work modes and specific work space features such as light, air, furniture and privacy/access.

The WPI score for all survey respondents was 67 percent. Top companies have a WPI score of 80 percent and average companies 64 percent, a 16-point gap. Yet even top companies have a margin of 20 points where they could increase the effectiveness of their work spaces for knowledge work.

A Higher WPI Score Delivers Better Financial Performance

In the knowledge economy, corporate profitability and growth are driven more by organizational capabilities than tangible assets. Factors that measure organizational capability, such as market leadership, innovation and employee engagement, are drivers of profit and revenue strength.

Gensler found that all business success factors are influenced by a more effectively designed workplace; as a company’s WPI rises, its score on multiple business metrics rises — including profit, market position, innovation capabilities, employee engagement and brand capital.

Diane Hoskins, Erik Lucken, Kate Kirkpatrick, Jan Lakin, Jen Liao

Timothy Soar: page 1
Riccardo Vecchio: page 3

Learn More

Download the "2008 U.S. Workplace Survey" (PDF)

Listen to BusinessWeek's "Innovation of the Week" podcast with Diane Hoskins

Gensler’s 2008 U.S. Workplace Survey was designed in collaboration with independent research firm Added Value, a subsidiary of WPP.

Survey Sample
The survey asked questions of a national, random sample of 900 full-time, in-office workers — defined as workers who spend most of their time working at a primary, assigned location. Respondents covered all staff levels and had equal distribution across the continental United States. The study included respondents from various industries, including: banking, finance, insurance, technology, internet, telecom, consumer products, retail, legal, accounting, consulting, energy, media, creative, entertainment and not-for-profit associations.

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