New Survey Finds Office Workers More Practical

Sept. 11, 2007
Find out how trends and perceptions of the work environment contribute to performance and productivity on the job
If you had 100 points to spend on improvements to your company's workspace in the short term, how would you recommend those points be used? That was just one of the questions posed to managers of many Fortune 1,000 companies in a new survey released today by Hixson, an architecture, engineering, and interior design firm based in Cincinnati. The survey, conducted on behalf of Hixson by California-based research firm MarketTools, studied how trends and perceptions of the current work environment contributed to performance and productivity on the job and found that amenities that make the workplace more secure and productive were seen as most important for improving employee attraction, retention, and performance.

In the survey, 9 out of 10 respondents felt that organizations should spend their facility design budgets on things such as security, convenient meeting spaces, food service areas, exercise facilities, and daycare facilities. "The average respondent spends 76 percent of the work week in or around the office," says Bruce Mirrielees, Hixson senior vice president and project manager. "The environment, therefore, needs to offer more than just a place to hang the proverbial hat."

According to respondents, a wide range of amenities are currently available to them, with break rooms listed as the most common. At the same time, things such as game rooms, white noise, and covered parking were seen as less critical to attracting and retaining staff.

"This survey really reflects what we've been seeing in our work," says Mirrielees. "If approached correctly, the areas identified, such as security and cafeterias, can both improve employee satisfaction and also contribute to the bottom line."

Adaptive Environments
Another primary factor driving performance and productivity is teamwork. Nearly 60 percent of survey respondents said their organization's work is now done in teams. Seven out of ten also said that features such as open areas and brainstorming areas were critical to supporting those teaming functions. Among those with facilities that had them, closed project team spaces and executive planning centers were rated as being more effective than other types of team spaces.

At the same time, privacy remains a priority. Respondents claimed that unscheduled visits (55 percent), background sounds (43 percent), and office traffic (37 percent) can all hinder productivity in the workplace when privacy was required.

According to Colleen McCafferty, Hixson's corporate interior design team leader, there are plenty of ways to mitigate those outside interferences through design. "Flexibility in the space is a must. This means incorporating ideas such as soundmasking, sliding partitions, huddle rooms, and other ideas to both meet the need for open environments and provide for the occasional need for privacy."

Technology Driving Changes
Alternative work arrangements such as telecommuting and mobile work spaces are also on the rise, enabled in large part by new technological advances. In a 1999 survey from Hixson, 54 percent of respondents said telecommuting was becoming an option. The 2007 survey shows that three out of five now believe telecommuting can be used, with nearly two-thirds of respondents saying that telecommuting was actually good for the company. According to 75 percent of respondents, one reason behind the growth of employee mobility is the rise in communication options and tools, which are fueling productivity and enabling employees to work any time, anywhere.

"For companies looking to support this trend, the office space itself must be able to adapt to accommodate the needs of workers who physically may not be in the office for extended periods of time," says McCafferty. "Tools and designs that support flexible work arrangements will be required to support this environment."

About the Survey
The telephone-based survey was conducted and data was analyzed between April and June 2007. A total of nearly 630 workers in management positions (supervisors, managers, directors, etc.) for United States-based companies with more than 500 employees were surveyed. The poll has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3 percentage points.

This information was provided by Hixson, an architecture, engineering, and interior design firm specializing in projects for corporate office environments, retail projects, and industrial processing facilities. Listed as one of the top firms in North America, Hixson delivers insight and advocacy leading to intelligent project execution through 16 integrated technical disciplines. To learn more, please visit (

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