A New Workplace Narrative: Findings From Gensler’s 2019 Workplace Survey

Gensler’s 2019 Workplace Survey finds that the open office isn’t dead, and calls for a new workplace narrative.
  • Gensler’s 2019 Workplace Survey focuses on the “balanced workplace”, one that prioritizes both individual and collaborative work.
  • 77% of people surveyed would consider environments that fall between the two extremes to be ideal.
  • Gensler’s new workplace narrative advocates for creating a great workplace experience, one that is driven by balance, choice, variety, and autonomy.

Gensler’s recently published 2019 Workplace Survey starts off by calling for a new workplace narrative, urging companies and individuals to “move past a language of extremes.” To a great degree, they’re referring to the never-ending debate between private and open offices.

“Very few people say their ideal workplace is ‘totally open’.” However, even though open offices are noisy, distracting, and reportedly destroy people’s ability to focus, Gensler has found that they make individuals more physically active and less stressed. The problem is that these findings are not consistent, mainly because there is no consistent definition for “open office”.

Gensler’s new workplace narrative advocates for creating a great workplace experience, one that is driven by balance, choice, variety, and autonomy. These factors can optimize workplace effectiveness, experience, and performance.


Suggested reading: “The Modern Workplace is about Balancing ‘Me’ and ‘We’ Spaces


“Great workplaces create more engaged employees; and more engaged employees are the key to business productivity and profit.” Great workplaces are also those that will reflect the wide range of needs and expectations of today’s diverse talent pool.

Key Findings

  • Only 44% of people today report working in a balanced workplace. *A balanced workplace is one that prioritizes both individual and collaborative work.
  • 45% of people report greater levels of choice and autonomy in where they work within their office.
  • Only a fraction of people would prefer working in a totally open or in a totally private environment.
  • 77% of people consider environments that fall between the two extremes to be ideal.
  • Only 33% of respondents without a variety of work settings report a great workplace experience.
  • Alternatively, 79% of people in workplaces with a variety of settings report a great experience.
  • Less than half of people without choice in where to work report a great workplace experience.
  • To optimize performance, companies must address effectiveness and experience in tandem. Yet, currently, only less than half of the American workforce is in a workplace that achieves both.




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Balancing Open and Private Areas

Gensler found that workers today tend to spend more time collaborating, socializing, and learning than they do working alone. These behaviors have been directly linked with greater business performance and innovation.

“Environments that are mostly open environments but provide ample on-demand private space have both the highest effectiveness and the highest experience scores.” This aligns well with the finding that team building and collaboration are the highest-ranked aspects of a great workplace. Even though open offices have been under fire, professionals who work in more open spaces are reportedly more likely to experiment with new ways of working, take time to reflect, have fun, and get inspired.

Coworking: A High-Value Amenity?

Large companies (100+ people) are increasingly using coworking spaces. Gensler found that 14% of employees at large companies use coworking spaces and that one in seven corporate employees use coworking during an average week.

Though coworking spaces can help companies attract and retain talent, these types of flexible spaces are not yet a company’s primary workspace; rather they are part of a strategy that seeks to facilitate worker autonomy and mobility.

Gensler makes an interesting point by suggesting that coworking spaces function as a high-value amenity for companies. “Time spent in coworking spaces is associated with higher scores until it exceeds a day per week.” The survey also found that too little time or too much time working away from the office is associated with lower effectiveness and experience scores.

Speaking of amenities, not all of them are worth the investment and the workplace should focus on offering amenities that optimize work. “Amenities aren’t for escaping work, they’re for optimizing it.”

Companies and workplace providers should think about creating hybrid settings, offering quiet and focus zones, work cafes, innovation hubs, and meeting areas.