With all the talk of the modern workforce expecting autonomy and companies offering flextime and work-from-home arrangements, most U.S. companies still try to get employees to show up at the office. So naturally, there is ongoing interest in the discussion about the most efficient and pleasant work environment and what that might look like. Over the decades, we’ve seen several attempts by designers to rethink the office space, from Herman Miller cubicles, to the rather controversial open-plan layout and the currently highly-sought-after co-working trend. Companies have several motivations for trying out new layouts: cost-effectiveness, the need to expand quickly following a growth in the number of employees, the desire to have an office design that reflects the company culture, and so on. However, there is still one question left unanswered: what do employees have to say about their workspaces?
In a U.S.-wide office survey, office space listings platform COMMERCIALCafé set out to determine how office workers feel about their surroundings. A total of 2,107 respondents of all ages (from Gen Zers to baby boomers), spread across several industries (from tech to education, retail, legal services and entertainment), answered questions about how some aspects of office design affect their work, what drains their productivity and what sort of personality types or interactions with their co-workers they find annoying. Keep reading to find out what they had to say.
Millennials Are Not That Excited about Co-Working Offices
Despite the current hype around co-working and the continuous expansion of companies like WeWork in major cities across the U.S., only 9.55 percent of respondents between the ages of 22 to 40 cited this layout as their ideal workspace. The design seems even less popular with those aged below 21 years, as only 6.67 percent of them prefer co-working offices.
The fact that pretty much every age group picked the private office as their ideal workspace might seem like a rather unrealistic expectation, given the costs and space requirements that make this layout very unlikely to be implemented anytime in the future. However, what this does tell us, especially when we look at answers concerning the most productivity-draining aspects of respondents’ current offices, is that lack of privacy is the number one complaint in many shared workspaces. Roughly 64 percent of respondents had their work affected by the constant interruptions from their co-workers while 60 percent felt the noise levels were too high and hindered their productivity. When co-working offices fail to address these issues, they slip down the list of preferred office layout choices.
Designing a Better Office
To gauge what designers could improve in future office layouts, respondents were asked to rate the importance of seven factors in the workplace on a scale from 1 to 5: noise control, privacy, air quality, design, natural light, ergonomic furniture and artificial light. With so many respondents pointing to increased noise levels and lack of privacy as the main productivity killers, it’s fair to say that any office design that tackles these two issues is likely to catch on. Designers are already experimenting with different combinations of sound-absorbing materials for flooring, panels and partitions, walls and furniture, and soundproof quiet rooms or pods. Carefully-placed plants throughout the office can also help reduce noise levels, and improve air quality and the overall aesthetics of the space, while also creating a sense of a more private space.
Personality Types in The Office and Their Effect on Worker Productivity
The people you must interact with at work can make or break your day and indeed, your work week. Many employers seek to encourage collaboration and host team building events to create stronger bonds between co-workers, but how do people deal with some of the less positive personality types that they might encounter during their workday? Survey respondents were asked to rate the most common workplace personalities by how strongly interacting with these co-workers affects them.
Not surprisingly, The Office Bully is still the most disruptive force in the workplace, always ready to provide negative comments on every topic, and ready to do anything that will make him or her feel superior. The bully is closely followed by The Loud Talker (a real problem, especially in open-plan spaces, as we’ve mentioned), and Mr./Ms. Know-It-All.
Read the full study and details about the methodology of the survey here.