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Workspace re-imagined

Martin Geiger, Global Expert in Efficiency & Productivity

How does workspace satisfaction impact on productivity?
It is human nature – and basic logic – to seek out safe, comfortable, and supportive environments. There is no reason why that shouldn’t apply to your workspace, as we spend a large part of our lives carrying out our job.

The question is, do employers who are acutely conscious of workspace satisfaction levels reap the benefits in the form of improved productivity? There is new research to show that is very much the case.

Study into link between satisfaction and productivity
I recently worked with a office workspace provider, Fellowes Brands, to conduct a study into levels of satisfaction and work rate among 6,000 international employees. This project encompassed both staff working in corporate office buildings, and those supported to work remotely from home.

The results included as much as a 50% improvement in productivity for staff who are satisfied with their job environment. This was the feedback gained from 27% of those surveyed. However, 90% of the employees questioned reported that satisfaction with their work environment could improve productivity by more than 25%.

Furthermore, 91% of the European workers questioned placed a high value on their workspace environment in general, illustrating that it is something existing staff and potential recruits will not just evaluate, but prize.

The study backed up a trend found on social media too. Social analysis showed that in a 12-month period, workspace satisfaction was mentioned within posts 1.5 million times. And keep in mind that this was during a period when a large proportion of workers were home-based due to the pandemic.

What underpins workspace satisfaction?
How satisfaction is measured will depend on the type of organisation and the expectations of its employees, of course. However, our research shows that some of the most basic human needs are part of the equation.

For example, almost half of the workers involved in the research (45%) felt well-ventilated premises – and filtered air – were a crucial part of their satisfaction levels. A further 35% of European workers surveyed felt their satisfaction and productivity were linked to the quality and availability of the equipment they had access to.

Clearly, we are not necessarily talking about demands for luxury or unviable building features, to boost job satisfaction. It’s primarily about getting the fundamentals right.

How employers can use these findings
We are at an important point in the development of digital workspace, with many organisations adapting their business models to accommodate more remote or mobile work patterns.

It demonstrates the need to explore employee attitudes to work environments to create better motivated and more effective staff teams. This includes considering their response to hybrid arrangements, involving both company buildings and their own home offices.

To shed some light on this, our research found that 40% of staff who were home-based believed their productivity was boosted by being away from the office. While 36% said working in a ‘hybrid’ environment created a higher rate of work.

Was this pattern globally similar, and what aspects matter most?
If you operate multiple sites across national boundaries, you may be interested to know whether the link between workspace satisfaction and productivity differed from country to country.

Yet, the study showed key commonalities between the European workers involved. In particular, the high value placed on four core priorities; clean, healthy, secure, and tidy places to work.

Cleanliness – and good air quality – are easy to understand as a measure of what constitutes a positive work environment. 54% of workers involved in the study placed a high value on good ventilation to create the right odour too.

83% of cross-European participants felt good ergonomics are vital to satisfaction and productivity, such as correct desks, chairs, and technology configurations.

Moving on to security, perhaps one of the most enlightening priorities identified in the research was the connection between careful document disposal and satisfaction levels. Two-thirds of participants placed a high value on having secure ways to manage confidential or sensitive materials, and 67% felt it important for employers to provide access to shredding equipment.

It is unlikely to come as a surprise that the fourth core element of satisfaction with workspace revolved around benefiting from tidy, well-organised environments. To such an extent that 77% of study participants valued effective storage and organisation solutions highly, to underpin their productivity.

Lastly, to improve productivity, 79% felt access to the relevant equipment – including an extra monitor for improved document visibility – was significant, and 69% referenced the need for tools to produce high-quality presentations and documents, such as laminators and binders.

Is this not basic common-sense?
Creating the best working environments, that take proper care of staff, may seem a logical part of planning commercial buildings or supporting remote workers. However, the top priority is usually to create layouts and interiors that support commercial goals, maximising every square metre to manage cost and deliver a logical workflow.

This can sometimes put employee satisfaction low in the things to consider, even though there is so much evidence that properly nurtured workforces show the most motivation, loyalty, and commitment to their tasks. Furthermore, pleasant and well-supported workspaces are central to building a positive culture in an organisation – and the better the workspace environment, the more attractive it is to work; reducing staff turnover.

Our findings make it clear that organisations don’t simply get intangible benefits from creating the sort of work environments staff like. They can also get good ROI in terms of productivity improvements.

Businesses must focus on the key aspects which create workspace satisfaction; and these are often fundamental requirements – clean, healthy, secure, and tidy offices, no matter whether staff are in commercial settings or working from home.

Finally, work patterns are in massive flux, and there is no consensus on which model of working is favoured; office, home, or hybrid. With that in mind, creating hybrid working systems are most appropriate, offering employees the option for the workspace they prefer, with both office and home fully equipped with the right tech, equipment, and furniture.

From this comes workspace satisfaction, and that all-important productivity upturn.

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