Too many offices still not fit for purpose, expert warns

Only half (57 per cent) of staff worldwide believe their workplace fosters productivity, a new study has found.

The report, entitled The Next 250k and published by research company Leesman, revealed that offices routinely present barriers to daily work, affecting everything from how proud people are to work for their organisation to how much they enjoy showing up to work each morning.

The researchers discovered that, although 57 per cent of employees agreed that their workplace did promote productivity, 15 per cent said they neither agreed nor disagreed that it did and 28 per cent disagreed.

Design features found to have the biggest impact on employees’ ability to work productively included space and dividers between work settings, and noise levels.

“There is still more that organisations need to be doing if they’re going to leverage the workplace as a source of competitive advantage and a booster of organisational performance,” said Tim Oldman, chief executive of Leesman. “We still see far too many workplaces that are simply not fit for purpose, and that represents a huge missed opportunity for business leaders.”

Dr Peggie Rothe, who led the research, added that the most effective organisations consider how their workplace layout can help staff do their best work. “Offices are assets – tools in talent management strategies, gears in product innovation, and instruments in brand development and organisational performance,” she said. “The central findings of this study should concentrate attention on how workplace strategies can support business competitiveness, not by cost mitigation but through increasing employee engagement, loyalty and output.”

However, Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the CIPD, argued that improving management quality was also critical to boosting productivity. “Investment in workforce training and development, leadership and people management capability, job design and flexible working practices can support employee wellbeing and engagement and help ensure people have the right skills and can use them effectively,” he said. “These types of progressive people management practices can also support the successful adoption and utilisation of new technology.”

Leesman is not the only organisation to discover that a workplace can affect staff performance. A study published last month by Peldon Rose revealed that two out of five (42 per cent) employees believed their office environment had no positive effect on their happiness. The workplace and office design consultants also found that, although 59 per cent of respondents felt they were most productive in an office environment, a third (33 per cent) wished their manager trusted them more about how and when they carried out their work.

Meanwhile, research by Oxford Economics has suggested that open-plan office designs were at odds with the working style of many non-managerial staff, with 53 per cent of employees surveyed saying the ambient noise in such workplaces reduced both their satisfaction and productivity, and 41 per cent adding that they did not have the necessary tools to cut out the noise and focus on their work.


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