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New study by BCO and Savills reveals what workers want

While many workers seek flexibility in where and how they work, new research from the British Council of Offices (BCO) in partnership with Savills has revealed that working from home has become less appealing.

In the third edition of What Workers Want study, which harnessed the opinions of over 1,100 British office workers in order to assess the needs of the individual worker and identify trends in the sector which will affect the future of workspace design in the UK, the results have identified an increasing appetite for workers to be based in an office environment.

Less than a third (28 per cent) of the workers surveyed stated they would like to work from home, a figure that has dropped from 45 per cent in 2013, when the research was last conducted.

Over three-quarters of respondents (77 per cent) said that they currently work in a traditional office, with the majority (60 per cent) choosing to work from a dedicated desk space compared to only four per cent that prefer to hot desk. This desire for a dedicated desk has actually increased over the past three years, rising from a figure of 41 per cent in 2013.

Although there is a demand from people to have a dedicated desk, the research shows that most workplaces (70 per cent) now also include a communal environment to work from, providing a space for more dynamic working. This is key to meeting workers’ needs with almost a third (29 per cent) deeming the ability to work from a variety of different locations in the office to be important, and almost half (48 per cent) considering access to collaboration space with colleagues as an imperative. The results reveal that choice and control are key here, with workers wanting to be able to choose how and where they work, while also having a desk space to call their own. For a third of respondents (33 per cent), this would go as far as choosing to work from a standing desk sometimes if the facilities were available.

Despite there being clear elements of control that workers would like to have, 42 per cent of those surveyed deemed their office culture to discourage flexible working. However, the results outline why more thought needs to be given to what goes into creating an optimum working environment that can adapt to different working styles.

Whether providing fixed workspaces or more flexible approaches, the productivity impact of the workplace still has much potential to be realised according to the research. Forty-five per cent of those surveyed deemed the workplace to have no impact on their productivity, while a quarter of respondents (25 per cent) stated that their workplace actually decreases their productivity levels. Pointing to the opportunity that exists, half of workers surveyed (50 per cent) agreed that if the internal design of their office matched their ‘ideal’, it would increase their productivity levels.

Three of the most important factors identified as having an affect on employee wellbeing and satisfaction at work are comfort (87 per cent), lighting (86 per cent) and temperature (85 per cent). Noise levels also ranked highly amongst the factors to have an impact.

The length of the commute to the office was also identified to be of paramount importance to 86 per cent of those surveyed. Despite this, two in five (40 per cent) are dissatisfied with their journey to work

Commenting on the study, Richard Kauntze, chief executive of the BCO, said:

What Workers Want is an important piece of research as it provides a clear understanding of what office occupiers need and expect from their workplace. In an age where people are, arguably, more focused on their wellbeing than ever, businesses must have a view of the role an office plays in enhancing this.

“This analysis shows that in trying to create the optimum working environment, organisations cannot look to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. It is essential that the specific needs of employees are listened to, equipping business leaders with valuable insight that can ensure the office helps boost wellbeing and productivity. While getting this right can be complex, there are often a number of quite straight forward factors that can have a significant impact. In listening to what a workforce wants and reflecting this in the workplace, the rewards can be considerable.”  

Steve Lang, Director, Savills Research and author of the report, added:

“For employers, ensuring that the office is a space in which workers feel comfortable and cared-for isn’t just the right thing to do – it also makes business sense, helping to both attract new staff and retain the best talent. While our concept of what a ‘good’ office is supposed to look like may be shaped by photographs of innovative fit-outs at high-profile companies, it’s important not to forget the basics.

“Comfort, temperature and lighting are consistently the most important considerations for employees; the focus should be on getting the fundamentals right rather than trying to reinvent the wheel.”

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