A Third of American Offices are Not Fit For Purpose

Sept. 20, 2017

 The data reveals a shocking level of dissatisfaction among the workforce.

A new study shows just how impactful a poorly planned workplace is on employees, which can lead to poor performance.

A new report released by Leesman, the world’s leading assessor of workplace effectiveness, analyzes how organizations can better support employees by offering an office environment that actually works. They investigate it in their report, ‘The Next 250k.’

Despite the current focus on health and wellbeing at work, the findings show that many employees are enduring workplaces that fail to support their basic working day, obstructing their ability to contribute to business success. 

“What this report demonstrates is that there is still more that organizations need to be doing if they’re going to leverage the workplace as a source of competitive advantage and a booster of organizational performance,” says Tim Oldman, CEO of Leesman. “We still see far too many workplaces that are simply not fit for purpose and that represents a huge missed opportunity for business leaders.”

The data reveals a shocking level of dissatisfaction among the workforce. 43% of employees globally do not agree that their workplace enables them to work productively.

The report points to five key areas that organizations need to focus on:

  1. The top productivity killers: offices are routinely presenting barriers to daily work that impact everything from how proud people are to be there, to how much they actually enjoy working there. The features that have the biggest impact on employees’ ability to work productively are ‘space between work settings’, ‘dividers’ and ‘noise levels’.
  2. The most demanding generation: millennials repeatedly show themselves to have the simplest workloads and thus the narrowest set of requirements. Attention should instead be directed at those in the 35-44 age band who consistently record the lowest satisfaction scores, and typically have more complex roles.
  3. The winner of the open-plan v. private office debate: the research shows that both open-plan and cellular solutions can be equally good and bad. Across 2,200+ workplaces surveyed, employees in the highest performing locations will almost certainly be sat in an open-plan setting, so demonizing this way of working is not the way forward.
  4. Workplace transformation projects are not always transformative: with the vast capital sums invested in refurbishment and relocation fit-out projects, leadership teams would be forgiven for expecting them to deliver significant operational benefit. But evidence shows this to not always be the case.
  5. Workplace + Behavior = Effectiveness: based on Leesman’s research across 11,336 employees in 40 ‘activity-based’ workplaces (where employees can select a series of different spaces that best supports the particular activity being undertaken), these employees rarely work in an activity-based way. In short, employees don’t just change the working habits of a lifetime because employers tell them to.

“Great organizations build a business framework that enable their employees to do their best work,” says Dr. Peggie Rothe PhD, the leading researcher on the project. “The central findings of this study should concentrate attentions on how workplace strategies can support business competitiveness, not by cost mitigation but through increasing employee engagement, loyalty and output.”

To download ‘The Next 250k’ report for free please visit

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