Which workspace factors are key to keeping employees happy and engaged? See what this industry study found

by Brianna Crandall — October 5, 2018 — A vast majority of American workers polled for a new study (92%) say that when their physical workspace is not up to par, their mental well-being and productivity can suffer, according to the report from research firm Kelton Global on behalf of office furniture retailer National Business Furniture (NBF).

Smiling female worker looking at her tablet

The NBF study examines which physical workplace elements such as ergonomics, flexible space and connectivity most affect workers’ mood, stress levels and performance. Image courtesy NBF

The study, which surveyed 560 adults ages 18+ who are employed full or part time, examines how the physical workplace affects the mental workspace including which elements have the greatest influence on workers’ mood, stress levels, performance and happiness.

The study pinpointed four primary factors that can derail workplace satisfaction:

  1. Cluttered work area: Nearly two-thirds of respondents (62%) say having a cluttered work area would make them unhappy; this is especially true among employed women (70%) compared to men (55%).
  2. Outdated technology: Having to use outdated technology is a close second (61%) in driving workplace discontent; in fact, more than one in four respondents (32%) say having multiple computer monitors is critical to workplace happiness.
  3. Poor workspace ergonomics:  More than half of respondents (54%) say an uncomfortable workspace or chair would cause them displeasure.
  4. Lack of privacy and flexibility: 43% of employed Americans say not having a private space would affect their mental wellness; one in four (25%) value flexible areas to work away from their usual workspaces.

Dean Stier, chief marketing officer for NBF, pointed out:

Many of us who work full-time spend the majority of our day at our desk or work station, so it’s not surprising that layout and design has a major effect on our mood.

Women vs. men — Office comfort zones
  • Women are more likely than men (60% vs. 49%) to say an uncomfortable working environment would cause them to be unhappy.
  • Working women are more likely to admit their physical workspace has an impact on their anxiety levels (47% vs. 38%).
Millennials impacted most by physical workspace

The research shows Millennials are more likely than Baby Boomers to say the design of their personal workspace affects their ability to be productive and happy. The study shines light on ways to keep younger employees content:

  • Access to privacy amid open floor plans: Although nearly one in five working Millennials (18%) attribute open floor plans to their happiness at work, they still desire some privacy in the workplace; 40% of Millennials, compared to 30% of Boomers, say having privacy screens or walls around their workspace are essential.
  • Flexibility: For Millennials (30%) more than Boomers (21%), having breakout areas to work at drives their happiness at work. Working Millennials also want various types of desks — stand-up and/or treadmill — and adjustable computer stands.
  • Connectivity:  Millennials (27%) say they really want whiteboards, corkboards or glass boards for shared use in the office, compared to far fewer working Boomers (11%) who say the same.

View or download the complete Kelton Happiness in the Workplace Study — NewsWorthy Analysis and related blog, “Office Ergonomics and Their Effect on Employee Productivity,” from the NBF website.