Gensler: Badly designed open plan offices are stifling businesses

By Chris Borland - Friday, July 15, 2016 9:30

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Badly designed open plan office environments are stifling innovation in businesses across the United Kingdom, reports architecture and planning firm Gensler.

According to Gensler’s 2016 Workplace Survey, which examined feedback from 1,210 employees at all job levels across11 industries, over 8m UK employees work in open plan environments and many of these environments are not designed to promote creativity and innovation.

Gensler says 67% of the workforce feels drained due to their office environment; while the report indicated the workforce to be divided into ‘haves and have-nots’, with mid and lower-tier workers confined to poor quality environments.

The survey details that employees provided with a private office space rated their workplace environment the highest performing, whilst traditional open plan offices do not offer variety or choice, nor are they tailored to specific tasks and practices.

Survey respondents who scored highest for innovation achieved better productivity and effectiveness scores for all work modes. Innovators are five times more likely to have access to a private space and favour working alone, says Gensler.

Philip Tidd, principal and head of consulting EMEA, Gensler, said: “Employees who scored lowest on innovation are one and a half times more likely to spend all day working in the same place and use their assigned desk for all manner of activities from intense concentration to team brainstorms. This is clearly not an effective use of space. Interestingly, enclosed office space is not the enemy and moving to a simplistic open plan may not be the most effective option in today’s hyperconnected workplace. Giving employees a greater variety of places and spaces along with the autonomy and choice to work when and where suits their task will boost innovation. Businesses should also think about matching space to need rather than hierarchy to engage employees of all levels of the organisation.”

The energy, pharmaceutical and creative industries are leading the way in workplace design by offering their employees the most choice.

According to Gensler, firms need to diversify the workplace, including a variety of group work spaces inside and outside the office; tailor space to the most important functions of your business; empower the entire organisation, not just the senior leadership, by choosing when and where they work.

Tidd concludes that a one size fits all approach is a fundamental mistake when it comes to workplace design, that you need to tailor to your business needs, with good workplace design paramount in getting ahead of the competition.

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