Lack of shared office space hampers collaboration and creativity, finds Overbury

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by Shane Henson — March 11, 2013—Dull office environments marked by rows of cubicles and little communal space are curbing both collaboration and creativity among employees, according to a new report from Overbury, a U.K.-based provider of specialist office refurbishment and commercial fit-out services.

For the report, Overbury conducted a study that was based on opinion research among 2,000 office-based employees from across the U.K. The company found that while most workers consider idea generation crucial to their employer’s performance and competitive advantage, many feel unable to work creatively together in their offices.

Per the report, the majority of office-based employees (59%) stated that the development of new ideas is vital to their organization, and almost half (48%) claim that sharing ideas would considerably improve their employer’s competitive position. Half agreed that their company would be significantly more profitable if staff were able to be more creative.

However, employees also said that their working environment is thwarting creativity, with the majority (52%) of U.K. offices lacking common or social areas. As a result, a third of office workers (33%) lament a lack of opportunity to collaborate. One in three (29%) feel unable to generate new ideas at work, and 35% actually prefer to work from home whenever possible because of their uninspiring workplace.

A number of employees also indicated dissatisfaction with their offices, according to Overbury’s research. More than a third (36%) find their office demotivating, while a quarter (25%) describe it as “sedate and silent.” Almost one in ten (8%) go as far as to call their workplace a “creative and cultural desert.”

On the positive side, Almost three-quarters (72%) of UK office workers say that they get along well with their co-workers, and almost two-thirds (61%) feel that their best ideas arise from impromptu conversations with colleagues. More than a quarter (27%) of employees state that they are at their most creative when talking informally to people around the office.

Two-fifths (40%) believe that better quality common areas and social space would enhance collaboration and creativity. More than half (52%) say that team spirit would also benefit. According to respondents, the “Top Five” positive steps companies can take to boost creativity in their office are: 1. More social space (25%); 2. Better heating/cooling (24%); 3. Provide food and drinks (22%); 4. Install better quality furnishings (21%); and 5. Offer nicer coffee (18%).

Anthony Brown, sales and marketing director at Overbury, comments, “Organizations are missing a golden opportunity to foster greater ideas generation by putting creative collaboration and social interaction at the heart of their office design.”