In an age of fast paced technological innovation, people are increasingly equipped with the ability to work from anywhere at any time. While it is sometimes argued that this leads to a blurring of work and home life, new research from the British Council for Offices (BCO) and Savills has shown that there is an increasing appetite for workers to be based in an office environment.
While many workers seek flexibility in where and how they work, the research identifies that working from home has actually become less appealing; less than a third (28%) of workers surveyed state they would like to work from home, a figure that has dropped from 45% in 2013, when the research was last conducted.
Over three-quarters of respondents (77%) said that they currently work in a traditional office, with the majority (60%) choosing to work from a dedicated desk space compared to only 4% that prefer to hot desk. This desire for a dedicated desk has actually increased over the past three years, rising from a figure of 41% in 2013.
Although there is a demand from people to have a dedicated desk, the research shows that most workplaces (70%) now also include a communal environment to work from, providing a space for more dynamic working. This is key to meeting workers’ needs with almost a third (29%) deeming the ability to work from a variety of different locations in the office to be important, and almost half (48%) considering access to collaboration space with colleagues as an imperative. Choice and control are key here, with workers wanting to be able to choose how and where they work, while also having a desk space to call their own. For a third of respondents (33%), this would go as far as choosing to work from a standing desk sometimes if the facilities were available.
Despite there being clear elements of control that workers would like to have, 42% of those surveyed deemed their office culture to discourage flexible working. However, the results outline why more thought needs to be given to what goes into creating an optimum working environment that can adapt to different working styles.
Whether providing fixed workspaces or more flexible approaches, the productivity impact of the workplace still has much potential to be realised. Just under half (45%) of those surveyed deemed the workplace to have no impact on their productivity, while a quarter of respondents (25%) stated that their workplace actually decreases their productivity levels. Pointing to the opportunity that exists, half of workers surveyed (50%) agreed that if the internal design of their office matched their ‘ideal’, it would increase their productivity levels.
The research identified the most important factors perceived to be driving employees’ sense of wellbeing and satisfaction with their workplace. It found:
- Getting the basics right is of most importance: comfort (87%), lighting (86%) and temperature (85%) are the three most important factors affecting employees’ wellbeing at work
- Length of commute to the office is also paramount, with 86% saying it is of most importance of them. Despite this, two in five (40%) are dissatisfied with their journey to work
- Noise level also ranks highly amongst the factors impacting employee’s wellbeing – but is an aspect of their office which many employees are dissatisfied with; 71% say having quiet areas to work from is important to them, but only 30% are satisfied that they currently have this
Richard Kauntze, chief executive of the British Council for Offices, said: “What Workers Want is an important piece of research as it provides a clear understanding of what office occupiers need and expect from their workplace. In an age where people are, arguably, more focused on their wellbeing than ever, businesses must have a view of the role an office plays in enhancing this.
“This analysis shows that in trying to create the optimum working environment, organisations cannot look to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. It is essential that the specific needs of employees are listened to, equipping business leaders with valuable insight that can ensure the office helps boost wellbeing and productivity. While getting this right can be complex, there are often a number of quite straight forward factors that can have a significant impact. In listening to what a workforce wants and reflecting this in the workplace, the rewards can be considerable.”
Steve Lang, Director at Savills Research and author of the report, added: “For employers, ensuring that the office is a space in which workers feel comfortable and cared-for isn’t just the right thing to do – it also makes business sense, helping to both attract new staff and retain the best talent. While our concept of what a ‘good’ office is supposed to look like may be shaped by photographs of innovative fit-outs at high-profile companies, it’s important not to forget the basics.
“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.”