The British Council for Offices has released their What Workers Want 2016 survey and research results. And it raises some concerns about the current state of office life and workspaces in the UK.
Why We Should Listen To The What Workers Want 2016 Survey
Put together by data pulled from respected YouGov sources, the study is released by the BCO, the leading forum for discussion and debate on the office sector in the UK. This year's release is worth paying close attention to because of the signs which are emerging as we enter the second half of the 2010s. It is another signal that flexibility in types of working space are key to staff morale and productivity.
The survey investigates the needs of the individual worker rather than those leading and shaping design. This is because the survey, now in its third edition and the first since 2013, is aiming to help inform and influence office design over the coming decade.
The survey received 1,132 responses and reviews 64,500 data points, including the most recent trends in the workplace such as wearable tech and standing desks. It sought to find out what is important to office staff and how satisfied they are.
What Does 'The What Workers Want 2016' Survey Tell Us?
For context, an overwhelming number of respondents (77%) work in a regular office (of varying sizes) with 18% in a serviced office (which is an increase from 2013's share) and only 5% work remotely or in a 'innovation centre'.
The headline comment to be made is that nearly two-thirds of office staff are "'fairly' or 'very' proud of their office environment, but there are improvements to be made." (That is our boldening of the text in order to stress the overall mood of the data produced by the survey.)
For example, half of employees are not satisfied with the cleanliness of their work environment; something to note for landlords and senior management of owned space.
Open plan offices are still the most popular form of office space and only 45% of respondents stated that they were happy with the noise levels in their open plan workplace. The fact that open plan offices remain to be most popular goes against growing evidence that flexible options when it comes to types of working space available is increasingly important. We blogged about how to make the most of productivity via office design, earlier in 2016 and more recently too, on how open plan offices impact workers.
Besides noise levels, the wider office environment and atmosphere was questioned in relation to employee wellbeing and work-life balance. As well anything else that office staff could be dissatisfied with.
Below is BCO and Savill's graph showing their findings. Respondents were asked to state which factors were most important in their office environment and what they were most satisfied with.
Of the factors which over 60% of respondents stated as most important (relating to: commute, cleanlieness, toilets, wi-fi, quiet space and public transport links), not only does satisfaction lag far behind, some are very quick wins for office managers and owners. As are other factors which workers are dissatisfied with.
Office cleanliness, wi-fi quality and (moving further down the list) things like personal storage space are easily rectified issues.
Moving back to the issue of open plan offices and flexibility in working spaces, you can see three of the four highlighted blue issues are cause for concern. Kitchen facilities are also an issue.
- A quiet space for focused work was listed in the most important factors by over 70% of those surveyed - equal to good public transport links. But only 30% are satisfied with the provision.
- Having food facilities was most important to 60% of office staff. But under 40% are satisfied with what is in place.
- The internal design and layout of the office is deemed amongst the most important factors at work by close to 60% of employees. But only just over 35% are satisfied.
- Access to collaboration space with colleagues was deemed most important by 50% of workers. But between 35%-40% are not satisfied.
Over three quarters of those surveyed work in open plan offices. When asked about whether open plan or private working space office layouts decrease or increase productivity; private space comes out more favourably.
Around 45% of staff feel that being in open plan office doesn't really impact their productivity. More importantly, 25% of workers feel that open plan offices at least harm their productivity (compared to 12% regarding private) and 40% feel that private working space increases their productivity (but only 25% in open plan).
The trend here is that offering private space is a must because the workforce has different needs.
As mentioned at the outset, a big concern among office workers is the issue of noise and how this impacts productivity. It's seen as massively important by workers but - even in private offices - satisfaction lags behind. Especially in open plan, as you'd expect.
This raises the point that noise is a major consideration for office design and refurbishment as we move forward, as nearly 80% of office workers state noise around them impacts their productivity.
Historically, private offices were proven to be ineffective. Cubicles (i.e. semi-private) had other detrimental effects. Now open plan offices also, it has to be said, do not solve the problem either.
The conclusion to be drawn from this, and other studies, is that offering your employees a variety of different working spaces and flexibility is key to maximising their productivity. With this comes increased wellbeing and job satisfaction; which minimises staff turnover and therefore recruitment and training costs.
An investment in your workspace can bring future productivity and therefore cost benefits.
Does This Raise The Question Of A Possible Office Refurbishment?
An office refurbishment, however small or large, could be the way to boost your staff's productivity, wellbeing and retention. It's seems like an enormous task but our free checklist can make it easier and give you an idea of what is involved.
Press the yellow Download Now button to get a checklist to start looking how feasible it is for you to refurbish your office and make sure your employees reach their full potential.