Employee productivity: Global survey shows how the office environment affects workplace performance

by Brianna Crandall — September 25, 2017 — A new report released by Leesman, an independent assessor of workplace effectiveness around the world, analyzes how organizations can better support employees by offering an office environment that actually works.

Leesman just launched The Next 250k, a global report based on the evaluation results from more than 250,000 employees across 2,200+ workplaces in 67 countries. The study looks at how a poorly planned workplace can have a negative impact on employees, inhibiting their ability to perform. According to Leesman, the data reveals a “shocking” level of dissatisfaction among the workforce.

Workplace effectiveness report cover

The Next 250k global report looks at how a poorly planned workplace can have a negative impact on employees, inhibiting their ability to perform.

Despite the current focus on health and well-being at work, the findings show that many employees are having to endure workplaces that fail to support their basic working day, obstructing their ability to positively contribute to business success.

A full 43 percent of employees globally do not agree that their workplace enables them to work productively. In the States, that figure is 37 percent (based on 27,334 respondents). Therefore, in line with the latest figures from Statistica, for over 47 million U.S. workers, the office is simply not good enough.

The report points to five key areas that organizations need to focus on:

  1. The top productivity killers: Offices are routinely presenting barriers to daily work that impact everything from how proud people are to be there, to how much they actually enjoy working there. The features that have the biggest impact on employees’ ability to work productively are “space between work settings,” “dividers,” and “noise levels.”
  2. The most demanding generation: Millennials repeatedly show themselves to have the simplest workloads and thus the narrowest set of requirements. Attention should instead be directed at those in the 35-44 age band, who consistently record the lowest satisfaction scores and typically have more complex roles.
  3. The winner of the open-plan v. private office debate: The research shows that both open-plan and cellular solutions can be equally good and bad. Across 2,200+ workplaces surveyed, employees in the highest-performing locations will almost certainly be placed in an open-plan setting, so demonizing this way of working is not the way forward.
  4. Workplace transformation projects are not always transformative: With the vast capital sums invested in refurbishment and relocation fit-out projects, leadership teams would be forgiven for expecting them to deliver significant operational benefit. But evidence shows this to not always be the case.
  5. Workplace + Behavior = Effectiveness: Based on Leesman’s research across 11,336 employees in 40 “activity-based” workplaces (where employees can select a series of different spaces that best support the particular activity being undertaken), these employees rarely work in an activity-based way. In short, employees don’t change the working habits of a lifetime just because employers tell them to.

Dr. Peggie Rothe, PhD, who led the research, said:

Great organizations build a business framework that enable their employees to do their best work. And the workplace is integral in this equation. Offices are assets — tools in talent management strategies, gears in product innovation, instruments in brand development and organizational performance. The central findings of this study should concentrate attentions on how workplace strategies can support business competitiveness, not by cost mitigation but through increasing employee engagement, loyalty and output.

Tim Oldman, Leesman CEO, added:

What this report demonstrates is that there is still more that organizations need to be doing if they’re going to leverage the workplace as a source of competitive advantage and a booster of organizational performance. We still see far too many workplaces that are simply not fit for purpose and that represents a huge missed opportunity for business leaders. We hope that the key central findings can help more organizations create better, more productive environments for their workforce.

Leesman notes that it does not offer consultancy, strategy, design or management services, so the Leesman Index is entirely independent. It simply helps organizations create better workplaces by arming them with the data that tells them where to invest their time and resources. With the study’s extensive database, the company says the data can be used as an international benchmarking tool.

The Next 250k report is available for free download from the Leesman Web site.