Weekly Editorial

There Is Opportunity in Chaos

Written By Rob Kirkbride, Editor-in-chief, OI Publications • May 20, 2024

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If you read this column regularly, you know how much of a geek I am when it comes to research and data. I love a good survey, especially one done by Gensler. The design giant came out with its 2024 Global Workplace Survey, which summarizes the current state of the office environment (both in-person and remotely).

It is one of those surveys that I pay particular attention to since Gensler understands work and the workplace so intimately. It is also a quality survey since Gensler polled more than 16,000 office workers across 15 countries, and 10 industries. It is a broad, global sample, which makes it especially meaningful.

The main takeaway from the survey, which you can find here in its entirety, is that it’s time to move beyond discussing employee presence and instead measure workplace performance.

I’m not going to steal Gensler’s thunder in this column. I’ll let you peruse the entire survey at your leisure. But here are some of the high-level highlights:

New graduates are seeking connections and experiences within their workplaces. Gen Z is looking for a variety of spaces to succeed in the office, including work cafes (36%), outdoor workspaces (33%), libraries (30%) and a business-like work environment (30%) – which also directly impact their performance and productivity. With less than a third of global workplaces having been redesigned in the last three years, companies aren’t meeting expectations of 2024 graduates.

Top performing employees need workplaces designed with the same intentionality that we design training facilities for top athletes. Top performers value variety in their workspaces with opportunities for learning, networking, and socializing. Employees reporting high workplace engagement spend only about a third (36%) of their time working alone, compared to those less engaged (44%).

Exceptional workplaces utilize the neighborhoods beyond their offices. Building quality has a direct relationship to workplace quality, with those in higher quality buildings reporting more positive feelings about their company. As a result, 93% of occupants in high quality buildings are satisfied with their office location.

What can the commercial interiors industry learn from the survey? There’s still a lot of work to do. While offices continue to shrink, they are shrinking and changing at the same time. That change requires the expertise of people just like you.

This particular point in history also gives us a chance to put more thought and effort into offices. It’s not to simply create a good workplace. As employees seek different experiences in where they work, having a space that is simply functional and effective will not create a desirable workplace for employees, according to the survey.

“Great workplaces are intentionally designed to evoke feelings in a space by overlaying experience factors with space function. The most important experience factors that promote workplaces from good to great include feeling that the space is beautiful, welcoming, and inspires new thinking,” the Gensler survey found.

In its conclusion, the survey goes on to say, “Within the office, the spaces that have the biggest impact on performance are innovation hubs, project/team rooms, work cafés, outdoor workspaces, and focus rooms. Beyond the building, exceptional workplaces leverage the local neighborhood to incorporate more space types that respond to people’s lifestyle beyond their work needs.”

Even though the office is going through its most disruptive churn, there is opportunity out there for people like you to guide your customers through these turbulent waters. The office isn’t going away. But it is going to be different.

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