We need to change the terms of the open plan office debate

Attractive foyer in office building designed by GenslerNew workplace data from the Gensler Research Institute claims to challenge the current narrative surrounding the open plan office ‘debate’ and uncovers the right way to invest in work-focused amenities, including coworking, that result in higher employee engagement, business performance and profit. The 2019 Gensler US Workplace Survey includes the input from more than 6,000 US office workers across a variety of industries and demographics to provide new insight into not only what makes an effective workplace, but the investments companies can make to improve employees’ workplace experience and performance. Reports for the UK, Germany, Latin America and Asia are also available here.

“One of the most important decisions companies need to make is how open they should make their office,” says Gensler Co-CEO Diane Hoskins. “For the first time, we have data to help inform this decision as well as other decisions about the type of workplace strategy offered by employers. This new data will help companies devise more effective real estate strategies that will improve employee productivity, deliver cost savings, and make an organisation more attractive in recruiting top talent.”

[perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Today’s diverse workforce challenges employers to address the often competing expectations of five generations of workers[/perfectpullquote]

According to the authors, today’s diverse workforce challenges employers to address the often competing expectations of five generations of workers. In the war to attract and retain top talent, the research finds employees want, and expect, a great experience at work – spaces with mostly open plan environments combined with the right amenities and on-demand private space are the ones that deliver this best. The five top-performing amenities with the greatest impact include innovation hubs, maker spaces, quiet/tech-free zones, outdoor workspaces and focus rooms.

Additionally, Gensler’s data suggests that access to coworking directly correlates with effectiveness and experience when offered as another choice of where to work, but not a replacement for the main office.

For employers looking to create a great workplace experience to entice and retain top talent, the report claims that there are three things companies can implement to optimise employees’ performance in the workplace:

  • Design open environments to include private space, too. Open environments with on-demand private space are the most effective and offer the best experience.
  • Create amenities that are about optimising work, not escaping it. High performers work everywhere – both inside and outside the workplace. Amenities are central to a successful workplace, but some offer significantly more value than others.
  • Use coworking as a part of, not a replacement for, a great workplace experience. When large companies offer employees the option to use a coworking space it is associated with a better work experience and higher performance, but it loses its lustre if used more than one day a week.