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Workplace design is yet to nail the productivity issue

Whilst UK workers are happier with their office environment than ever before, the findings of Savills latest What Workers Want report has revealed that office design is still hindering worker productivity.

What Workers Want shows significant increases in workers reporting that their workplace is positively impacting their physical and mental health, with 39 per cent agreeing that it positively impacts their mental health (up from 33 per cent in 2016); 34 per cent say it positively impacts their physical health (up from 25 per cent in 2016). 

However, while workers may be generally happier with their workspace, a sizeable majority think it actively harms how productive they are. Almost a third of workers (32 per cent) say their workplace’s internal design/ layout decreases their productivity; this increases to 45 per cent where people work for an employer with a hot-desking policy. Savills says that despite hot-desking becoming common practice over the past decade, workers have seemingly not acclimatised to it – in 2016 only 31 per cent said hot-desking decreases their productivity.

Seventy-three per cent of UK office workers said that they work in an open plan office, opposed to 18 per cent who work in private offices. Those who reported they were in an open plan office were more likely to say the internal design/layout decreased their productivity than those in a private office (36 per cent versus 14 per cent). Eighty-three per cent of workers say that noise levels in their office are important to them – this has increased from 77 per cent in 2016.

In addition, only a third (34 per cent) of workers said that they’ve been asked their views on their office environment by their current employee, opposed to 59 per cent who have not.

According to Savills the majority of office workers still want their own dedicated desk (60 per cent of respondents chose this as their preferred workplace location), with there being very little variation in answers between age groups, dispelling thoughts that younger workers are more prepared to work flexibly. Fifty-eight per cent also said that they would prefer their office is in a city or town centre, opposed to a rural location or business park. 

Steve Lang, Director in Savills Commercial Research team and co-author of What Workers Want 2019, commented: “Overall, employers are heading in the right direction when it comes to the office. More UK workers now say that they’re happier with their office than any other time when we’ve run What Workers Want, and there’s been a big improvement in physical and mental health in the workplace over the past three years, indicating that employee well-being and health are being taken seriously. However, the workplace is yet to nail the productivity issue: a significant minority of workers say their office actively harms their productivity, with many voicing concerns about noise and hot-desking.”  

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