The ability to focus is hardest hit; the most important solution is privacy.

By comparing data for workers in unassigned seating versus in assigned seating, and data for workers in top performing workplaces overall, we uncover specific areas where unassigned seating underperforms. This data suggests fundamental challenges associated with taking away someone’s desk, as well as areas for improvement to make unassigned seating work.

Work mode effectiveness scores for workers with assigned seats compared to those without assigned seats, and to workers in top performing workplaces as defined by the top quartile of WPI scores. All scores are on a 5-point scale.

THE AVERAGE UNASSIGNED SEATING WORKPLACE UNDERPERFORMS

Effectiveness scores for workplaces in the top quartile of performance scores set the benchmark for where average workplaces can improve. Research found average workplaces with assigned seating score closer to the benchmark set by top-performing workplaces than do those with unassigned seating. Within unassigned seating scenarios, a focus on in-person collaboration is the only work mode that outperforms assigned seating — indicating that workplaces without assigned workstations may prioritize collaborative work over other types of work.

Time spent in each work mode during an average week for workers with assigned seats compared to those without assigned seats, but who would prefer to have a desk, and to those who don't have assigned seats and are happy with it.

WORKERS IN MORE SENIOR POSITIONS HAVE HIGHER RECEPTIVITY TO UNASSIGNED SEATING

However, perceptions around unassigned seating are not universal. By role, those in more senior positions are more likely than others to express positive impressions of unassigned seating, although at this time, they are not more likely to be in unassigned seating themselves. Across industries studied, technology workers appear most receptive — though on average, only one in four regard the strategy in a positive light.

Most important design factors for unassigned seating.

FOCUS ON THE MOST IMPORTANT DESIGN FACTORS FOR UNASSIGNED SEATING

Providing the right suite of alternative work spaces or amenities can make a big difference in addressing struggles associated with unassigned seating, such as finding private places to work and take phone calls. Those in unassigned seating also struggle with the basic issues that come with losing a desk — storage, cleanliness, comfortable seating, and overall noise.

U.S. WORKPLACE
SURVEY 2020
GENSLER RESEARCH INSTITUTE

The Gensler U.S. Workplace Survey 2020 represents the input from more than 5,000 U.S. office workers across a variety of industries and demographics. The data provides new insight into what makes an effective workplace, and how workplace design and strategy can respond to new forms of mobility that are impacting the workplace today.