Gensler Releases 2013 U.S. Workplace Survey, Finds Only 24% of U.S. Workers Currently Work in Optimal Workplace Environments

BALANCED SPACE 22squared, Atlanta, GA Space Concept: Consider space design that allows for effortless flow between work modes, for example focus and collaboration in proximity to one another in the workplace (Photo: Business Wire)

WASHINGTON--()--Gensler, the leading global design and architecture firm, has released its 2013 U.S. Workplace Survey. The 2013 findings reveal that only 24% of U.S. workers are in optimal workplace environments. The rest are struggling to work effectively, resulting in lost productivity, innovation and worker engagement.

The 2013 U.S. Workplace Survey (WPS) analyzes responses from more than 2,000 knowledge workers across the U.S., examining design factors that impact productivity across the four work modes: focus, collaboration, learning and socializing. Forces from technology to globalization to a new generation of workers appear to be leading fundamental changes to where, when and how today’s knowledge workers perform their jobs, resulting in new performance drivers for today’s workplace. Analysis of those in optimal environments shows that the ability to effectively balance focus and collaboration via strategic workplace design is the key to innovation and success.

On Average, U.S. Workers are Struggling to Work Effectively

Workplace effectiveness has declined since 2008, as measured by comparative data between Gensler’s 2013 and 2008 U.S. Workplace Surveys. The inability to focus for many is the key driver of workplace ineffectiveness. Results show that a lack of effective focus space drags down the effectiveness of all other work modes: collaboration, learning and socializing, as well as the effectiveness of the workplace as a whole. Respondents who can focus are more satisfied (31 percent), higher performing (14 percent), and see their companies as more innovative (31 percent). Interestingly, this pairs with a shift in how employees report spending their time. Despite many workplaces designed expressly to support collaboration, time spent collaborating has decreased (20 percent), while time spent focusing has increased (13 percent).

Effective Workplaces Balance Focus and Collaboration

While individual focus and collaborative work are often thought to be opposites, the 2013 WPS demonstrates they function best as complements: almost a quarter of survey respondents (24 percent) report that their workplaces communicate that their companies value individual and collaborative work - a ‘balanced workplace.’ These employees are thriving. Their spaces are more effective for focus (21 percent) and more effective for collaboration (20 percent). They also see their companies as more innovative (29 percent), are more satisfied with their jobs (36 percent), with their workplace environments (34 percent), and rate their workplaces as more effective overall (23 percent).

“Our survey findings demonstrate that focus and collaboration are complementary work modes. One cannot be sacrificed in the workplace without directly impacting the other,” says Diane Hoskins, co-Chief Executive Officer at Gensler. “We know that both focus and collaboration are crucial to the success of any organization in today’s economy.”

Workplace Choice Drives Performance and Innovation

Employers who provide a spectrum of choices for when and where to work are seen as more innovative by their employees, have employees who are more satisfied with their jobs (12 percent) and report higher effectiveness scores across all four work modes. Employees without choice report low effectiveness and diminished experience. Those without choice cite organizational policy as the most common reason and are also less likely to have tools that support mobility and “anywhere” working, either inside or outside the office. Interestingly, increasing choice doesn’t mean working from home. Respondents with choice still spend the vast majority (70 percent) of their time in office settings. These respondents cite coming to work for access to people and resources.

“Balanced workplaces where employees have the autonomy to choose their work space based on the task or project at hand are more effective and higher-performing,” says Diane Hoskins. “This is not about mobility. In fact, those who choose to remain in the office are more engaged and satisfied than those who have to be mobile most of the day. Our research indicates that employees will leverage autonomy for optimal productivity when given the choice in where and how to work as well as the technology and infrastructure to support their choice.”

Survey Methodology

Gensler commissioned The Futures Company to conduct an online survey with a sample of 2,035 respondents representing a broad cross section of demographics, including education, age, gender, and location. Respondents include knowledge workers who work in an office some or all of the time within their ten industry segments. Statistical analytics were conducted by Precision Consulting.

The methodology aligns with Gensler’s 2008 U.S. Workplace Survey, which asked parallel questions and allows for time-based comparisons, and with data from Gensler’s ongoing Workplace Performance Index™ (WPI) tool, which measures specific client workplaces for the effectiveness, criticality, and time spent across four modes of work: focus, collaboration, learning and socializing.

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Monica Schaffer, 212-492-1442


Monica Schaffer, 212-492-1442