What workers want from their workspace – and why HR should listen!

Getting the right office interior design can be of huge benefit to your employees, potentially improving their productivity, attendance, health and happiness. Yet, when designing a workplace, many companies forget to ask for the opinion of the very people they are hoping will benefit the most.

A survey published by Gallup back in 2013 revealed that, on a global basis, unhappy employees outnumber happy ones by two to one, while 87 percent are “emotionally disconnected from their workplaces and less likely to be productive.”

So what do employees actually want from an office design and how can you provide it for them?


Quiet Space

According to Oxford Economics, 74 percent of office-based staff work in an open plan office, largely because this design is thought to improve workplace collaboration. Yet, two of the most common employee complaints are the number of distractions around them and the lack of privacy they have, which makes it difficult to concentrate.

It should, therefore, come as little surprise to learn that the provision of quiet spaces ranks very highly on a list of employee demands. In fact, a joint survey from Savills and the British Council for Offices, entitled What Workers Want, found that 71 percent of all workers value having a quiet area for more focused tasks.

This coincides with research from Oxford University, which found that more than half of workers complain about noise levels. Despite this, the majority of businesses are failing to provide it for them and only 30 percent of respondents to the Savills study were actually happy with the provision of quiet spaces within their workplace.


Workplace Flexibility

While a natural conclusion from workers’ demands for quiet may be an increase in the number of partitions in the workplace, or even a return to the cubicle designs of the 1980s, this is not the answer. David McClelland’s Three Needs Theory and Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs both reference the need to belong to a group.

In actual fact, what workers say they want is access to quiet spaces when they need it. This means that the modern office interior design needs to allow for an element of flexibility, with employees having the freedom to shift between collaborative spaces and private spaces, based on their needs at the time.

Trusting employees to act in their own interests in this way also has benefits for your business, beyond the happiness of staff members. Gensler’s 2016 UK Workplace Survey found that workers who have access to a range of spaces, including private, semi-private and open plan, are more likely to come up with innovative ideas.


Other Findings

Various studies have shown that the workplace can have a significant impact on a person’s well-being and, according to the aforementioned What Workers Want survey, 30 percent of employees believe their workplace is actively harming their physical health. Comfortable seating and pleasant break areas rank highly in the list of requests.

Finally, while workers want flexibility, it is also important that your office design gives them a place to call their own and retreat back to. A YouGov poll found that 60 percent of employees most like to carry out their work at their own dedicated desk; twice the number who said they would most like to work from their own home.


Author Bio:

Reno is a founder and director of a leading exhibition and event company Enigma Visual Solutions, specialising in retail designs, interiors, graphic productions, signage systems, office interior design, event branding, exhibition stands design and much more. He specialises in experiential marketing and event productions. He enjoys sharing his thoughts on upcoming marketing ideas and design trends. Feel free to follow him on twitter.

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