Getting the Basics Right: What Workers Want from Their Workspace

The British Council for Offices (BCO) and Savills, a real estate services provider, recently shared the results of their 2016 What Workers Want survey which received 1,132 responses, resulting in a report that reviews 64,500 data points provided from the YouGov survey.

One thing we have learned with the current work revolution is that workspaces, regardless of whether they’re serviced or not, need to be created and designed in such a way that they cater to workers’ needs.

The ‘perfect’ modern office is yet to be discovered; the debate between open plan offices or private ones is still a hot topic in the flexible workspace industry, which has led to many operators adopting hybrid models to create a more agile workplace.

One of the key findings in the BCO and Savills’ survey is that ‘the office is not dead’. By office here, they mean workplaces in general — whether it is open plan, dedicated, or private, workers are opting to have a fixed work space rather than working from home.

Since 2013, the number of workers using serviced offices has doubled in the UK, with open plan workspaces being the dominant choice for occupiers. However, 45% of open space users are dissatisfied with the noise levels in these types of spaces.

This last bit is not news to us, as noise issues are the main argument going against open plan workspaces. Which is what has led workspace operators to implement hybrid models in their centers, a switch that has proven to be successful for some operators. Like the study states: “it is important to have areas where employees (or members) can concentrate on work in a quieter setting.”

Workers are asking for it and though coworking is still a hot workspace trend, we are seeing how coworking is no longer synonymous with open space.

According to the study, even in coworking spaces “having a dedicated desk is by far the preferred option, accounting for 60% of respondents’ preferences.”

“Despite the rapid evolution of hot-desking, collaboration and flexible working technology, most (workers) want to work from their own desk.”

What else do workers want?

The survey shows that city and town centers are still the most popular places to work, but commuting time is still a major issue to be addressed and one that is linked to workplace design and fit out.

“If the commute is such a big deal, and having a ‘nice’ or perfect office is an aspiration, then the next sensible question to ask is how willing are employees to commute for additional time to achieve that perfect office? With the possibility of the perfect office being located exactly where the employees are now, it may be no surprise to see that 15–20% of respondents are prepared to add no time to their current commute. However, 20–25% would be willing to add another 30 minutes to reach a perfect office. This shows that, for some, the office is a major part of their work, and highlights the value that is placed by the employee on the office fit-out. Therefore, occupiers could potentially increase their labour pool catchment if they get their fit-out right.”

On the note of design and fit out, the study found that “the internal design and layout is relatively more important compared with the external building design.”

“A third of respondents believe that the internal layout and fit-out of their office has a negative impact on their levels of productivity, scoring either a 1 or 2. This is important, and it shows how the office can have a direct bearing on attitudes to work and levels of productivity.”

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Yet, this issue not only addresses productivity but also health and wellness.

“Sitting is the new smoking,” the report reads. So, when thinking about design and refurbishment, operators need to look into options that will help members feel better about their health when using the workspace.

“The introduction of standing desks has risen in popularity in recent years, and this could be a method that occupiers implement to reduce future health risks.”

However, the findings weren’t restricted to sitting vs standing desks. The report also states that workers want more control over their  workspace design–mainly as it relates to lighting and temperature.

“[T]here is increased demand for new technologies that would allow these factors (lighting and temperature) to be controlled at desk level.”

That’s not it for health and wellness, as workers reported that one of their major concerns is cleanliness and access to toilets in the workspace; the survey found that 50% of workers are dissatisfied with the overall cleanliness of their workspaces.

In short…

  • Workers are still searching for their ‘perfect’ office, although trends point at a balance between open and private workstations.
  • Workers want to have more control over their environment — lighting and temperature.
  • Workers want cleaner workspaces and access to clean toilets.
  • Interior design and fit out are a key elements to keeping workers happy and satisfied with the workspace.
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