Bad offices are a false economy

Aug 31 2005 by Brian Amble Print This Article

A poor working environment in offices across Britain is damaging morale, cutting productivity by a fifth, and costing the economy £135 billion every year, according to new research.

Six out of 10 office workers believe their office has not been designed to support their company's business objectives or their own job function. according to These Four Walls: The Real British Office, a new report from international architects Gensler

The report, based on a survey of 200 managers in the UK's legal, financial services, and media sectors also highlights the importance of office design to job satisfaction, recruitment and retention.

Eight out of 10 professionals considered the quality of their working environment very important to job satisfaction and more than a third said that the working environment has been a factor in accepting or rejecting a job offer.

But only half rate their working environment as above average, whilst close a fifth would actually be embarrassed to show customers their office.

The majority of those surveyed also believed that minimising costs, not maximising effectiveness, was the main driver behind their office design.

"As the great British workforce returns to work after the summer break, its time for UK business to wake up to the fact that poor office design is a false economy," said Gensler's Gary Wheeler.

According to the survey, in an ideal world, a third of us would prefer an office with a sea view, a quarter would want to look out onto countryside, and one in ten onto mountains.

One in ten are so desperate about our bad surroundings that we would settle for "any view of the outside world". And tellingly, a mere four per cent hanker after a better view of the office and colleagues.

Personal space, climate control and daylight topped the list of crucial factors for a good working environment.

Management-Issues columnist and workplace expert, John Blackwell, said that a large part of the problem with modern offices is that many organisations continue to inhabit a nineteenth-century mind-set about work and the workplace.

"Managers still believe that employees have to be constantly supervised, that departments and functions should be kept separated and advances up the organisational hierarchy must be marked with more territorial space."

Meanwhile according to Gary Wheeler, the challenge for 21st Century business is to increase knowledge worker productivity.

"Our research shows that good office design can increase such productivity by nearly 20 per cent - equivalent to an £135 billion annual increase in UK service sector output."

"Office design is a crucial factor in job satisfaction, staff recruitment and retention. Poor office design in the UK is a false economy. The cost of providing accommodation for office workers is dwarfed by the cost of their salaries.

"Companies must recognise that the influence of the office on their staff in terms of increased productivity and effectiveness will have a much greater financial impact than the cost of office accommodation."