Only 24 percent of U.S. workers are in optimal workplace environments. Yes, 24 percent. That means that a whopping 76 percent of U.S. workers are in less than ideal office space. So says a study from Gensler, a global design and architecture firm.
And that means a whopping 76 percent are struggling to work effectively. The result: lost productivity, innovation and worker engagement.
By contrast, an analysis of the 24 percent of workers who said they are in optimal office space environments shows that the ability to effectively balance focus and collaboration via strategic workplace design is the key to innovation and success.
“Balanced workplaces where employees have the autonomy to choose their work space based on the task or project at hand are more effective and higher-performing,” says Diane Hoskins, co-CEO at Gensler. “Our research indicates that employees will leverage autonomy for optimal productivity when given the choice in where and how to work as well as the technology and infrastructure to support their choice.”
An Inability to Focus
The Gensler study looked at design factors that impact productivity across the four work modes: focus, collaboration, learning and socializing. According to the firm, forces from technology to globalization to a new generation of workers appear to be leading fundamental changes to where, when and how today’s knowledge workers perform their jobs. The result: new performance drivers for today’s workplace.
Consider the statistics: Workplace effectiveness has declined since 2008, as measured by comparative data between Gensler’s 2013 and 2008 U.S. Workplace Surveys. At the root of the problem is an inability to focus. Indeed, survey results reveal a lack of effective focus space drags down the effectiveness of all other work modes: collaboration, learning and socializing, as well as the effectiveness of the workplace as a whole.
It’s no surprise that respondents who can focus are more satisfied (31 percent), higher performing (14 percent), and see their companies as more innovative (31 percent). Noteworthy is the fact that this pairs with a shift in how employees report spending their time. Despite many workplaces designed expressly to support collaboration, time spent collaborating has decreased (20 percent), while time spent focusing has increased (13 percent).
A Balanced Workplace
Individual focus and collaborative work may seem to be at polar opposites but the survey shows that they actually complement each other. In fact, 24 percent report that their workplaces communicate that their companies value individual and collaborative work, or a “balanced workplace.”
In fact, these employees are thriving. Their spaces are more effective for focus (21 percent) and more effective for collaboration (20 percent). They also see their companies as more innovative (29 percent), are more satisfied with their jobs (36 percent), with their workplace environments (34 percent), and rate their workplaces as more effective overall (23 percent).
“Our survey findings demonstrate that focus and collaboration are complementary work modes. One cannot be sacrificed in the workplace without directly impacting the other,” says Hoskins. “We know that both focus and collaboration are crucial to the success of any organization in today’s economy.”
In other findings, employers who provide a spectrum of choices for when and where to work are seen as more innovative by their employees, have employees who are more satisfied with their jobs (12 percent) and report higher effectiveness scores across all four work modes.
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Employees without choice report low effectiveness and diminished experience. Those without choice also cite organizational policy as the most common reason and are also less likely to have tools that support mobility and “anywhere” working, either inside or outside the office.
Image: 22squared – Atlanta, courtesy of Gensler