Here are the facts: The UK has more than twice as many open plan workers as the global average and us Brits are twice as likely to hot-desk as our international neighbours, however, the UK is falling behind for engagement and workplace satisfaction.
Steelcase partnered with the global research firm Ipsos to understand if the workplace can positively influence employee engagement. Their study was conducted in 17 countries on four continents with 12,480 office workers to learn the differences and similarities between countries and cultures. They found that almost half (49 percent) of UK workers are based in open plan offices; more than twice the global average (23 percent). Meanwhile, almost one in five (17 percent) don’t have a fixed work location – due to hot-desking or nomadic working – compared to just 8 percent globally.
According to their research, UK employees are falling below the global average for almost all workplace satisfaction metrics, reporting a lack of control over their work environment (59 percent), difficulties concentrating (43 percent) and an inability to work without being interrupted (50 percent). These three factors were found to be central to fostering an engaged and satisfied workforce.
Could space and cost-saving strategies such as open plan offices and hot-desking be impacting workplace satisfaction and engagement?
UK workers are amongst the lowest engagement and workplace satisfaction levels in the world, ranking 12th out of 17. Just 29 percent of UK workers are engaged, compared to 34 percent globally and as many as 53 percent in India, 44 percent in Mexico and 44 percent in South Africa.
“While open plan offices and hot-desking have their benefits, there is evidence that they are contributing to lower levels of engagement and workplace satisfaction in the UK, through limiting the control employees have over their work environment,” commented Bostjan Ljubic, VP of Steelcase UK and Ireland. “We have consistently found that the most engaged workers are those who have more control over their work environment, including the ability to concentrate easily and work in teams without being interrupted. To cater to these needs, employers should provide a range of working environments, including private spaces, meeting rooms and informal break-out areas, to suit different styles and types of work.”
With real estate costs in the UK amongst the highest in the world, open plan offices and hot-desking are tried and tested ways of keeping overheads down. Yet across the global findings, nearly nine in ten (88 percent) highly engaged employees report flexibility over how and where they work. A further 88 per ent of highly engaged employees say they can concentrate easily, and 94 percent say they can work in teams without being disrupted.
“Studies have shown that engaged employees are more productive, innovative and loyal, yet many organisations are failing to address the broad range of factors that can influence engagement, including workplace design,” continued Ljubic. “Every employee is different, just as every role and every working day are different, therefore the work environment must flex to these changing needs. Our research shows that a range of spaces, designed for a range of work styles and combined with the right technology, is the most effective approach for businesses who want to get ahead.”
Leslie Maliepaard, CFO and workspace designer at WNDYR says: ‘We couldn’t agree more with this approach. Office design has got to the point where we need to take the research and insightful findings of these global brands and input it from the ground up. In an ideal world, companies would tear out their offices, and start building them from scratch, designing the optimum environment for staff to both collaborate and concentrate in. Only then will engagement and true productivity be realised.’