Office design influenced by benefits of homeworking

The vast majority of employees (79%) do not work from home at all, according to a study by the British Council for Offices, which found that the key benefits of office working were social.

The poll of 1,000 office workers across the UK, carried out by YouGov found that noise was seen as one of the worst aspects of the office, suggesting employees are not well served by one dimensional work places with a single design model rather than a range of working environments. Half of all respondents (50%) said fewer interruptions was one of the biggest benefits of working from home, while 48% opted for ‘quiet’ and 35% said that it was easier to concentrate. This was particularly the case for women – 42% of female respondents compared to 29% of male employees could focus better in a domestic setting.

Some 68% voted their personal workspace as a vital element of workplace design, one which 67% said had a positive impact on their ability to work efficiently. This comes as organisations increasingly opt to erode desk ownership through open plan office models.

The study revealed that employers risk alienating employees by not getting their buy-in before redesigning office space to support flexible working. Only 35% of employees had ever been consulted on the design of their office space, despite the fact that 77% said they would like to be involved.

Gary Wingrove, President of the BCO and Head of Construction Programme Management at BT Group Property, said:“We live in an age where – in theory – we can work almost anywhere. Despite this, the research suggests that employees are still inherently wedded to the office for collaboration and stimulation.It is therefore more important than ever that businesses prioritise their staff as the ultimate end users of the workplace, and invest time and money in implementing office designs which accommodate different types of work.

“In effect, offices need to become what has been referred to as ‘business hotels’, providing a range of settings to incorporate both the quiet and comfort of home with an interactive and social work space. Whether cellular or open plan, without doubt it is those workplaces designed and fitted-out with the needs of employees in mind which provide a greater financial return on investment by improving staff morale and therefore levels of productivity and efficiency.”

The research also revealed the consequences of getting office design wrong. 77% of respondents said an unattractive workplace would make them less proud to work for an employer, and almost a third (27%) said they would have to be paid 11% to 20% more to stay in a workplace with very poor offices.

Despite a focus amongst employers on investing in technology, the majority of employees rated home comforts – the nuts and bolts of office design – most highly. 61% of those surveyed said that having a view from a window had a positive impact on their ability to work efficiently, while 60% said the same of the quality of facilities (kitchen and toilets) available. Just 40% of employees said wireless technology improved efficiency and 39% said it made no difference at all to workplace effectiveness.

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