Under a quarter of US staff enjoy optimal working environment, claims report

American flag cakeArchitecture firm Gensler has released the results of its 2013 US Workplace Survey. The report claims that under a quarter (24 percent) of US workers work  in an optimised working environment with the remainder suffering from unnecessary lost productivity and a lack of innovation and engagement. The survey of more than 2,000 knowledge workers from across the US examined specific design factors across four work modes defined by Gensler: focus, collaboration, learning and socialising. The report concludes that the modern workplace has a  number of new and increasingly important drivers including new technology, globalisation, generation Y and so on which define where, when and how workers perform their jobs and concludes that the ability to balance focus and collaboration with strategic workplace design is essential.

The report claims that workplace effectiveness has declined since 2008, as measured by comparative data between Gensler’s 2013 and 2008 Workplace Surveys. The inability to focus for many is the key driver of workplace ineffectiveness. Results show that a lack of effective focus space drags down the effectiveness of all other work modes: collaboration, learning and socializing, as well as the effectiveness of the workplace as a whole. Respondents who can focus are more satisfied (31 percent), higher performing (14 percent), and see their companies as more innovative (31 percent). Gensler claim that this pairs with a shift in how employees report spending their time. Despite many workplaces designed expressly to support collaboration, time spent collaborating has decreased (20 percent), while time spent focusing has increased (13 percent).

While individual focus and collaborative work are often thought to be opposites, the survey claims they function best as complements: almost a quarter of survey respondents (24 percent) report that their working environment communicate that their companies value individual and collaborative work – a ‘balanced workplace.’ Their spaces are more effective for focus (21 percent) and more effective for collaboration (20 percent). They also see their companies as more innovative (29 percent), are more satisfied with their jobs (36 percent), with their workplace environments (34 percent), and rate their workplaces as more effective overall (23 percent).

Employers who provide a spectrum of choices for when and where to work are seen as more innovative by their employees, have employees who are more satisfied with their jobs (12 percent) and report higher effectiveness scores across all four work modes. Employees without choice report low effectiveness and diminished experience. Those without choice cite organisational policy as the most common reason and are also less likely to have tools that support mobility and “anywhere” working, either inside or outside the office. Interestingly, increasing choice doesn’t mean working from home. Respondents with choice still spend the vast majority (70 percent) of their time in office settings. These respondents cite coming to work for access to people and resources.