Given the sheer amount of time that workers around the world spend in offices and other workplaces, ensuring that you craft a suitable environment for them to work within is absolutely vital if you are to achieve peak performance and productivity. However, a new global report from Leesman has revealed that a staggering proportion of the working population were unable to agree with the statement, “My workplace enables me to work productively”.

Img: Leesman Index
The report, titled ‘The Next 250K’, evaluated results from more than 250,000 employees across 2,200+ workplaces in 67 countries in order to ascertain the degree to which a poorly planned workplace can have a negative impact on the employees themselves and their day-to-day performance.

Worryingly, the report found that just 57.3% of respondents are happy with their current working environment and feel that the space allows them to work in the most productive manner possible. This leaves nearly 43% to work in offices that are lacking at best, and unfit for purpose at worst.

The report itself is split into five key areas, each of which business leaders must be aware of if they are to make the most of their available space and workforce. These key areas are as listed below:

Profiling productivity - According to the report, many of today’s offices are found to be routinely presenting obstacles and barriers to daily work that impact onwards to sense of pride and community. Dubbed ‘obstructer’ workplaces, the report asserts that such workspaces are “failing employees and employer alike” due to their negative impact on wellbeing and productivity.

Getting down to specifics, the reports asserts that the physical and service features which have the most profound impact upon perceived individual productivity are ‘space between work settings’, ‘dividers’, and ‘noise levels’. It also revealed, in direct contradiction to the recent trend whereby companies fit out their offices with collaborative areas and projects in mind above other features and spaces, that “employees’ perception of a workplace that supports personal productivity is impacted more by its ability to support individual work than collaborative work”.

Demographic diversions - Despite all the recent attention placed upon millennials in the workplace, their expectations, and the changes that will follow them into the professional landscape, the report actually highlights the need for a little extra focus to be placed upon other, older demographics. The report suggests directing attention at the 35-44 age range in particular, as these individuals consistently record the lowest effectiveness scores. Also warranting a little extra attention are those in the 45-54 age range, as they tend to have the most complex work activity patterns.

The report also pointed out that while those under 25 make up just 4.4% of the workplace population in assessed areas, employees between the ages of 35 and 54 collectively comprise 56.2% of workplace population and therefore present the greatest opportunity and the highest risk.

New is no guarantee - When splashing out the cash for an extensive office refurbishment or relocation, business leaders hope to see some sort of return on investment in the form of significant operational benefits. However according to Leesman just 34% of fit out projects deliver high performance results, showing there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to workplace design.

The report asserts that the highest performing projects place the individual’s needs at the heart of the solution, building the space around the employees tasked with working within.

De-demonising open-plan - The report also took the time to touch upon the debate regarding the merits and downfalls of open-plan environments as compared to traditional private offices. This is arguably one of the most-discussed facets of office design at present as the same experts who once championed the open-plan option are now piling on the criticism, attacking the open-plan setup as a source of distraction and a hindrance to productivity when embarking on solo projects in particular.

However nine of the ten highest performing workspaces identified by Leesman’s research are either fully or in large part open-plan. The report states in no uncertain terms that both open-plan and cellular solutions can be good and bad. So, demonising open-plan layouts is, quite simply, factually incorrect.

Managing mobility - The final key area of the report centred on whether nomadic working practices should be encouraged in the workplace.  For some companies this may mean offering remote working options, while for others it is more about exploring a less territorial use of the workplace whereby employees are free to base themselves wherever they like within the office, often making use of an ‘activity-based’ approach.

However the research conducted by Leesman, gathered across 11,366 employees in 40 ‘activity-based’ workplaces, suggests that these practices are often failing to make the desired impact, largely due to the reluctance of staff to adopt the behaviours which maximise the benefits of such surroundings. If employers believe an activity-based approach will benefit their business in the long run, they must make extra effort to encourage their employees to adapt their working habits to fit.


Additional information can be found in the full report, which is available for download here.


Sam Bonson

Sam is an aspiring novelist with a passion for fantasy and crime thrillers. He is currently working as a content writer, journalist & editor as he continues to expand his horizons.
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