Two-Thirds of Workspaces Cause Unhappiness – So Why Do Corporates Still Use Them?

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70% of workspaces are open-plan – yet these are found to reduce motivation, productivity and happiness. Further findings on the relationship between workspace design and personality reveals that catering to individuals can unlock greater productivity.

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Panelists: (left to right) Jonathan Hindle, John Hackston, Jacky Murphy, Bob Seddon, Jonny Gifford

Last month, OT attended a roundtable discussion challenging the relationship between workspace design, personality type, and productivity.

The event offered insight into how the design and layout of an office can complement, or challenge, an individual’s personality. This, according to the discussion, is significantly more impactful than office design for Generations.

But despite this revelation, all but the most forward-thinking businesses remain reluctant to make changes to accommodate individual personality traits – generally due to cost. Yet open-plan offices, which account for up to 70% of workspaces, have been found to dramatically reduce motivation, productivity and happiness.

Here’s what we have learned so far:

1) Human Resources and Facilities Management are two sides of the same coin: but they’re not communicating

HR teams understand that comfortable, motivated employees are more engaged and productive. Yet, office design and layout generally falls within Facilities Management – and concerns over cost and footprint can take precedence over matching the space to the job function and the preferences of the workers themselves.

2) Paying attention to personality preference isn’t self-indulgence: it’s good business

John Hackston, Head of Research and Development at OPP, says: “Our research clearly demonstrates that physical space has a profound effect on employees.”

“For example, introverts who work in a private office are significantly more likely to rate themselves as satisfied with their job; extraverts prefer to have more people around. These insights can provide the basis for adapting almost any office to be a more enjoyable and motivating place to work for all.”

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3) A considered and productive workspace needn’t cost the earth

Facilities Managers are often driven by cost (which was amplified during the recession), and even the most proven solutions can’t be adopted if they’re unaffordable.

As OPP’s study found, the least expensive solutions can often be the most effective – such as partitioning or panels to break up larger spaces and create the illusion of smaller, more private rooms. But it’s also about understanding how people wish to use it – and the general consensus from the panel is that the wider business community, from startups to FTSE 100 firms, still has a long way to go to appreciate the value of designing for the individual.

So, where do we go from here?

Many companies are identifying solutions, including Steelcase, KI Europe and Schiavello. They are harnessing intelligent design to create practical and cost-effective workplace solutions that provide variety and choice without sacrificing valuable space.

For instance, with the flexible workspace sector in mind, ‘quiet’ spaces or booths provide an important facility to which workers can retreat to focus on specific tasks, to take a private call, or simply to sit and think.

Perhaps most important of all is the need for greater understanding of the link between personality and the workplace. With 70% of open-plan spaces causing unhappiness, consider just how impactful it would be if companies took steps to identify, and accommodate, different personality preferences from the outset. Ultimately, this would help to create happier, more engaged workers and deliver a better return on investment for the business.

 What’s your experience of working in a large open-plan office, compared to a small private space? Do you naturally feel more productive when you’re in a comforting environment? And as a workspace operator, how do you accommodate different needs and personalities in your business centre? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook.

If you want to learn more about how to create a work environment to suit different personalities, check out OPP’s ebook on workspace.