Workers' plea on office design: 'Focus on the basics'

17 June 2016 | Martin Read

Research conducted by the British Council for Offices (BCO) and real estate services provider Savills suggests that office workers are far from settled on the value of many workplace innovations introduced over the past decade.


For the third edition of the BCO What Workers Want study, researchers set out to assess the needs of UK workers and how they might affect future office requirements. More than 1,100 UK office workers took part.


The most important factors perceived to be driving employees’ sense of satisfaction with their workplace can be bracketed under ‘getting the basics right: comfort (87 per cent), lighting (86 per cent) and temperature (85 per cent) were seen as the three most important factors affecting employees’ wellbeing at work.


Participants indicated that, although flexibility in where their work is conducted is welcome, working from home is becoming less appealing. When last asked in 2013, 45 per cent of respondents said they would like to work from home; that figure is just 28 per cent in the 2016 research.


And office requirements are shifting too. In 2013, 41 per cent of those polled said they would prefer their own dedicated desk space – a figure that has risen to 60 per cent in the latest research.


When asked what impact their office environment has on productivity levels, a quarter of survey participants said their workplace ‘decreased’ productivity levels. Half said that were the design of their office to match their own ‘ideal’, it would increase their productivity. These particular findings add to other research conducted in recent years that have office workers – when polled on their own perception of how their workplace impacts on productivity levels – giving negative responses.


Researchers say their report indicates “an increasing appetite for workers to be based in an office environment”.


Richard Kauntze, BCO chief executive, said: “This analysis shows that in trying to create the optimum working environment, organisations cannot look to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. In listening to what a workforce wants and reflecting this in the workplace, the rewards can be considerable.”


Echoing other research firms’ findings over recent years, Steve Lang, director, Savills Research and author of the report, said: “Comfort, temperature and lighting are consistently the most important considerations for employees; the focus should be on getting the fundamentals right rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.”


Other report findings:

  • Commuting: 40 per cent are unhappy with the length of their commute to the office.
  • Office noise: 71 per cent say having quiet areas to work from is important to them; 30 per cent are satisfied that they have quiet areas available to work from.
  • Access to collaboration space: 48 per cent see this as an imperative.
  • Office culture: 42 per cent said that theirs ‘discourages flexible working’.

The report is available to BCO members here.

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