But during the day, at some time or another, people crave interaction. And in a world that promotes greater flexibility than ever before, it seems the office, as a dedicated destination, is still appealing to the world’s workforce. In fact, going to a ‘place of work’ is what they prefer to do when they need to get through a to-do list.
Why do people want to work in an office?
In our recent survey of 2,500 workers across Europe, we found that the majority of employees prefer to work in an office.
This is especially true of the workers that describe themselves as ‘collaborative’ – 74% said they are most productive in the office, preferring an open plan setting (45%).
And when it comes to the workers that describe their style as ‘independent’, they too rated an office environment over working from home or off-site.
The reasons for this are plentiful. Even if quieter spaces away from the main ‘hustle and bustle’ are required for some tasks, the desire to be around other people wins out.
This is also backed up scientifically, as working in solitude has been proven unproductive.
For example, a study of 25,000 call centre agents by Susan Pinker, author of The Village Effect, found that those who had an opportunity to socialise for 15 minutes with their coworkers showed a 20% increase in performance.
This type of interaction also has a bearing on employee wellbeing. In fact, according to a survey by Globoforce, 89% of respondents said that office friendships improved their overall quality of life.
Almost two thirds of the European workforce rates the main office hub above off-site working
How can designers help to promote a balanced office environment?
When it comes to the role of the designer, there is a tightrope to be walked between designing spaces for the requirements of a business and addressing the employees’ needs.
That said, the results of our survey illustrated that many of the factors deemed important by the European workforce will, in fact, benefit business.
Take the inclusion of quieter zones. Offering the opportunity for employees to concentrate, businesses will benefit from enhanced productivity due to fewer distractions. In the Netherlands and France, over 40% of people have their own private offices – a percentage that is halved when looking at the UK.
In addition to an office’s function, form also plays an important part in employee happiness and wellbeing. When asked to consider their preferred interior scheme, Scandinavian style came out as the top pick for 28%. This was closely followed by collaborative and homely, with informal and interconnected spaces to mirror a home’s living space – chosen by 19%.
Employees are calling for a more inclusive office set-up, to suit variable styles of working
Therefore it seems that employees are not asking for the office concept to be completely reinvented. They are instead calling for more practical set-ups to suit variable styles of working. Whether that be some open plan spaces for collaboration or more closed off areas for concentration.
An example of this working in practice is the office of Washington Real Estate Investment Trust by Fox Architects. Designed to reinforce the organisation’s culture, the interior includes open space for collaboration and, due to the nature of the work being largely confidential, there are also semi-enclosed spaces for private conversations. This has resulted in a highly functional space tailored to the business and employees’ individual needs.
And so, with a central workspace still proving a key part of employee worklife, the design community is tasked with creatively ensuring that workspaces meet the varying needs of a businesses’ entire team.
To find out more about what European workers value, download Rethinking Workplace – Part I.