What do workers want from their offices?

by Elizabeth Dukes on November 15, 2013

The modern workplace is rapidly evolving. As technology improves over time and employees become more versatile and mobile, companies are forced to adapt to the changes in their workforces. People are no longer content to sit at a desk and chug away at their traditional responsibilities. They want more options to achieve greater results – and for managers who work every day to maintain facilities, this means more effort is required to keep employees happy.

What is it, exactly, that workers today want? There are many answers to that question. Steelcase recently conducted a series of workplace surveys in an effort to find them all. The firm found that people’s needs vary wildly across a multitude of industries, but some general principles hold true – people want mobility, access and the power to complete a myriad of tasks.

What do workers want from their offices?

“Work is more mobile and global than ever before, and happens around the clock,” the report said. “While some organizations have wondered if they even need a physical workplace anymore, forward-thinking companies have found that people need places that bring them together with other people and with their information.”

Steelcase surveyed over 265 organizations. Here are a few things they found today’s employees to hold in high regard.

Efficient use of time
If there’s one thing employees hate, it’s wasted time. Workers today have countless tasks they need to finish every day, and not enough time to finish them. If they squander precious minutes, it only compounds the stress of their already difficult jobs.

Steelcase found that the average employee loses 86 minutes of productivity each day. There are some factors that drive this number even higher – for a worker not satisfied with his or her physical environment, it’s closer to 91 minutes. For someone not happy with access to tools and spaces, it’s 92 minutes. For someone having trouble engaging, it’s 98. Time is a worker’s most valuable resource, but all too often, it goes to waste.

There are many reasons why an employee might lose time. Some common ones include rummaging through filing cabinets, traveling from place to place, organizing meetings with co-workers and having trouble with technology. By far the most prevalent reason, though, is distraction. When people are unable to focus at work, their time goes down the drain.

Steelcase notes that distraction in or near the work area is responsible for 25 percent of wasted time around the office. Diversions come from all over, including the internet, communications from outside friends and family and one major source – loud co-workers. People are taking precautions these days to block out distracting noise. Steelcase found that Generation Y, which now comprises 14 percent of the workforce, is twice as likely to use headphones for privacy purposes as any other generation.

Collaborative projects
Steelcase found that 46 percent of employees today consider themselves to be “collaborators,” meaning they work predominantly with others around the office. On average, they said 61 percent of their time is spent in collaborative endeavors, including 23 percent with just one partner and 24 percent with a group of three to six teammates. In these endeavors, workers need tools for collaboration, including meeting rooms and the capability to share files.

Individual work
Meanwhile, 54 percent said they were “individual workers,” meaning they spend 80 percent of their time working alone. These people require facilities to help them work independently – most notably, they need quiet, secluded office spaces where they can remain free from distraction.

Facilities management is a difficult endeavor because employees have so many disparate needs. Today’s managers must do everything they can to keep all workers happy.



Elizabeth Dukes

Elizabeth Dukes' pieces highlight the valuable role of the real estate and facility managers play in their organizations. Prior to iOFFICE, Elizabeth was in sales for large facility and office service outsourcing firm.

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