Are poorly designed offices eroding productivity?
The 2005 U.K. Workplace Survey
What We Did
We commissioned an independent survey of middle and senior managers in the legal, financial services, and media sectors in the United Kingdom to investigate the connection between the work environment and strategic business priorities. Business-to-business research specialist Vanson Bourne conducted interviews on our behalf in March 2005. Survey questions focused on how professionals in the UK view their work environment and how design connects to productivity, brand recognition, recruitment, and creativity.
At the time of this survey, business in the UK was at a fundamental turning point. With manufacturing having largely given way to a thriving services sector, people power was, and continues to be, the heart of the economy. The makeup of the workforce was changing as women continued to enter the job market and the current workforce was aging—at the time of this survey, it was projected that only 20% of the workforce in 2010 would be made up of white males under the age of 45.
To understand the contemporary business climate and continue to put design and strategy in the context of business objectives, the UK business community needed a clear vision of the impact of the physical office on the workforce and organizations as a whole.
Our research showed that poorly designed offices could be costing British businesses up to £135 billion per year, a projection based on high-value professionals who reported that a better working environment would help them be 19% more productive on average. Four in five professionals maintain that the quality of their working environment is very important to their sense of job satisfaction, yet the vast majority don’t believe their office has been designed to support their company’s business or their own job function.
What This Means
Great Workplaces Attract and Retain. The workplace is an opportunity to improve productivity and recruitment. Of the respondents, 79% said the quality of their work environment was very important to their sense of job satisfaction, and 33% said their work environment contributed to decisions of whether to accept or reject a job.
Express Brand through Workplace. The workplace is an opportunity to express organizational values and commitment, and for many this is a missed opportunity. Of respondents, 19% would be embarrassed to show customers their work environments. Respondents were split 50/50 on whether the workplace enhances company brand overall.
Tailor Workplace to Job Function and Performance. Of those who responded, 58% didn’t believe their office had been designed to support their company’s business and their own job function; 38% of professionals believed it was difficult to be creative or innovative in their office. This may be due to a loss of “thinking time”: 78% said increased work pressure meant they had less time to think than five years prior.
Consider Individual Needs. When respondents were asked what workplace factors are most important to a good work environment, personal space, climate control, and daylight were at the top of the list.
The strategic value of workplace design is beginning to be recognized in the boardroom. We must encourage business leaders to understand the performance of their workplace, rather than limiting their property strategy to reducing cost and square meters/square feet per person. The workplace is not a cost—it is a strategic resource that can be used to foster greater business success. Responses to the question “What do you think is the main reason behind your office’s design?” highlight the opportunity. This research has informed subsequent Gensler workplace research initiatives that continue to quantify the connection between business success and workplace performance.
Gary Wheeler, Evelyn Fujimoto, Vanson Bourne (research consultant)