Workplaces are undergoing a metamorphosis. Open offices have replaced cubicles at the world’s most successful companies and startups like WeWork have grown enormously, pioneering the coworking revolution. To better understand the trend, JLL’s new global study “Workplace Powered by Human Experience” surveyed workers globally to see how companies are reimagining workplaces to achieve strategic performance objectives.
From finding new ways to foster employee engagement to creating spaces that focus on happiness to attract and retain top talent, workplaces are set to keep evolving in the human direction.
How people work today
JLL’s survey received information from more than 7,000 people in 12 countries, and while the results differ from region to region, the overall figures paint a pretty clear picture of how people work. The majority of offices rely on enclosed workspaces, either shared or single, yet open-plan offices are gaining ground. A full 55% of respondents said they work in a single or shared office of up to six people, and 40% said they have a desk in an open office. Just 5% of respondents work at an unallocated desk, and when it comes to open offices, 71% of employees share the space with at least 10 people.
The survey’s results show workspaces dedicated to collaboration are especially important to employees under 35 in the U.S. and Asia, and JLL said such spaces have the strongest impact on productivity. Additionally, respondents said spaces that support a sense of community, including lounges, terraces and coffee rooms, help drive overall engagement and increase quality of life.
While just over 70% of workers in the U.S. said they work effectively in their current space, only 40% said they feel highly engaged at the office. Given the connection between engagement and productivity, the results suggest employees want their work environments to keep evolving in ways that increase their comfort and quality of life. These improvements also promise to boost employee engagement.
Employees want more human work environments
Workers want the office to be more than just an office. Increasingly, employees expect the workplace to be a thriving community that focuses on sharing and activity-based working. That is especially true for younger people, who prioritize workplace design above all other age groups when it comes to selecting an employer.
JLL said workplaces need to offer a broader range of innovative spaces to increase productivity while attracting and retaining top talent. Employees are more engaged when they have a connection to their work community and feel valued as individuals. To build that community and help cope with work pressures, 47% of respondents said they want more nontraditional spaces for concentration. Many people also said they want more workplace options that let them get away from their desks to recharge. To meet these needs, employees suggested quiet contemplation areas, fitness centers and family centers, among other spaces.
The specifics of office design depend on each organization’s needs. At the same time, the growing consensus is that workplaces should evolve in ways that, beyond just focusing on practicality, cater to human needs and create a sense of community.
How organizations can get ahead
The companies that successfully capitalize on this evolving trend will put experience at the center of workplace design. It’s not just about finding a place for everyone to sit comfortably; it’s about turning workplaces into thriving communities. While that task is admittedly harder than shopping for comfy chairs and desks, JLL’s survey indicates workplaces are evolving to become more complicated communities. Successful firms will integrate that complexity into their DNA.
“As workplace strategy moves from practical, design-based decision-making to a more experience-led approach, expect an overlap with functions that have traditionally been the domain of HR teams. This will impact workspace design and decision-making.” That is according to JLL Global Head of Research Dr. Marie Puybaraud, who added that real estate and human resource teams should grow closer together because they both work towards promoting employee happiness.
To help ensure that happiness, JLL recommended companies consider appointing a Chief Happiness Officer. This new role focuses on the happiness and well-being of employees and is intrinsically connected to the real estate side of the business through workplace design. An overwhelming 87% of respondents said they think the new role is important moving forward.
When it comes to changing office design, brokers can advise companies to start by piloting a few environments and analyzing the data to see how the change impacts profitability. The way offices evolve will look different across companies, but forward-thinking organizations will redefine the workplace to focus on human needs to attract top talent, position their brand and boost productivity through engagement.