Office design may be holding workers back from optimal job performance, as well as inhibiting companies' competitive advantage, according to a new study released today by Gensler, an architecture and design firm.
The Gensler 2006 U.S. Workplace Survey reveals that workplace design has an impact on companies' bottom lines. In fact, the effect of office design on worker productivity in the U.S. is estimated to be at least $330 billion annually for the eight industry groups sampled in the survey, according to an analysis conducted by the research firm D/R Added Value.
These survey findings suggest businesses that ignore the design and layout of their workplaces are failing to optimize the full value of their human capital. According to the survey, office workers believe they would be 21 percent more productive if given a better working environment. Almost half say they would log an extra hour per day under such improved circumstances.
The Gensler 2006 U.S. Workplace Survey is part of the firm's annual inquiry into the impact of design on business performance and builds on an earlier workplace survey conducted by Gensler's U.K. office.
“Businesses are waking up to the fact that the workplace is much more than just real estate and a means to house their people,? says Diane Hoskins, an executive director at Gensler. “They are embracing performance-focused workplace design as a strategic business initiative“as the forum that can drive employee excellence, business objectives, and ultimately, the bottom line.
Better Design Equals Better Performance
According to the survey, nine in ten workers believe that better office design leads to better overall employee performance, and also makes a company more competitive. Nearly 90 percent of senior executives feel that a better physical working environment would have a positive impact on their company's bottom line. They also estimate that their companies would be able to perform an average of 22 percent more work if their companies had better designed physical working environments.
However, in practice, many businesses seem to ascribe a low value to workplace design. Forty-six percent of workers do not believe creating a productive workplace is a priority at their companies, and 40 percent say that minimizing costs is the main reason behind their workplace's current layout. One in five respondents rated their current physical workplace environment as being only "fair to poor."
Impact on Innovation, Collaboration, and Creativity
The survey demonstrates a link between the physical office and work processes such as innovation, collaboration, and creativity. Two-thirds of workers believe they are more efficient when they work closely with co-workers. However, about 30 percent of workers don't think their current workspace promotes spontaneous interaction, collaboration, or cooperation and teamwork among colleagues and direct reports. Fifty percent believe that their current workplace design encourages innovation and creativity.
Workplace as a Weapon in the Talent War
Survey results overwhelmingly pointed to the importance of good workplace design for employee satisfaction. More than 90 percent say the quality of their working environment affects their mood and attitude about their work. Almost as many (89 percent) believe that the quality of their working environment is very important to their sense of job satisfaction.
"In the coming years, companies will succeed or fail depending on their ability to recruit and retain top skilled workers," says Hoskins. "Therefore, the office environment is taking on an increased responsibility to connect people and support strong corporate cultures that engage workers' hearts and minds."
Additional Survey Findings
Topping the list of employee grievances about physical environment were lack of space, too few quiet areas, uncomfortable workstations, and bad layout and design. Other notable results from the study include:
More than one-third of respondents say their current workplace design does not promote health and well-being, yet healthy and secure working conditions are reported as the most important factors in an efficient working environment.
Sixty-two percent of U.S. office workers have great respect for leaders who work in an open plan environment with their teams rather than in private offices.
Only 42 percent of respondents say they would be proud to show important customers or potential recruits their current workplaces.
Designed by D/R Added Value, the survey was conducted online in March 2006 among a randomly selected and representative sample of 2,013 office workers in all staff and management strata in the United States. National in scope and representing six major geographic regions, the sample represents workers in eight industry groups. Job types include all levels within the organization. The sample matches U.S. Census data with respect to average worker age and gender.