But, what if one were to pose the question: what do employees expect from their office spaces? What sort of physical environment and design do they like working in the most? Or what kind of spaces do employees feel most comfortable in? Do office space and designs impact productivity, collaboration, and creativity? You might hit a wall sooner than you expect if you try to answer any of these questions.
Steelcase, a furniture company providing office space and design solutions, sought to find out what the quintessential employee of today wants from the physical space that they spend the bigger part of their day in. The fact that despite 77% of the respondents having their own assigned workstations, 87% spent anywhere between 2 to 4 hours every day working at someplace else posed the pertinent question: why do employees have the need to move away from their own desk spaces? Steelcase undertook a global study and tried to shed light on the employee expectations from their office spaces. Here are a few things they found:
Informal Spaces are in Demand
- 51% of the respondents stated that they needed an ‘escape’ from working in the same place every day, no matter if they worked alone or in a team.
- 43% of the respondents believe that informal workspaces establish a deeper sense of trust between colleagues.
- 53% said that they cannot find the right type of space they need, and 40% felt that they didn’t have enough informal spaces in their office.
Making Informal Workspaces Better
On being quizzed how informal workspaces can be made better and more effective, the following got the maximum number of takers:
- More views of greenery and nature (45%)
- Better support for informal interactions (41%)
- More access to private spaces for acoustic and visual privacy (38%)
- Better ergonomics (37%)
Same Space, Different Goals: Generational Needs
- Regardless of the generation, all employees like informal workspaces, but they use them for different reasons.
- While millennials use dining/bar spaces to do work that requires focus, older generations use them for collaboration and socializing.
- Millennials seek privacy in lounges, whereas other generations use them for socializing.
- Interestingly, millennials are more likely to use a range of informal spaces and tweak the furniture setting according to their own taste, as opposed to employees of other generations, who are likely to stick to their favorite spot and leave the setting unchanged.
Location and Perceptions Matter
- Employees from China and India were found to be spending the least amount of time at their own workstation and the maximum time in collectively owned and shared workspaces.
- Workers in USA and Germany, on the other hand, seem to be more traditional and tend to stick to their own work desks the most.
- Organisations in India and China are more progressive and offer more shared spaces than companies in other countries.
- Organisations that offer more casual and informal spaces are perceived to be more progressive than those who don’t.
The study notes that employees expect their office spaces and structures to facilitate informal connections with peers, collaborative teamwork, privacy, and comfort. The results need to be given their due attention and must be considered while constructing and designing workspaces. Creating informal and relaxed spaces in the organization is not about adding bean bags or coffee vending machines as the study points out, but actually providing a safe space for employees to feel at ease. The move from cubicle to shared workspaces was done to enhance collaboration and communication; maybe it is time to move to a step forward and create spaces for employees that actually support them in their work.
The study concludes aptly, “People know what they don’t want at work—a sea of bland, uniform spaces where ideas go to die.... most organizations only provide people with the technology and permission to work in informal spaces. But what’s missing is the range of spaces where people want to work that support their physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing... In the office, organizations must provide people with technology, (and) a diverse range of spaces that support different types of work and permission to use these spaces if they expect them to thrive.”
You can view the complete study here.