Almost 80% of UK businesses have reported recruitment challenges in the last year, putting an even greater pressure on employers to nurture, retain and attract the best talent.
Research from CIPD/Hays Resourcing suggests that the growing skills shortage and increased competition for talent has caused this and made recruitment and staff retention a boardroom concern. It’s no secret that employees are now making employment decisions based on much more than remuneration and opportunities for career progression. In a mobile, always-on age, priorities now include wellbeing, working environment, flexibility and the ability to strike the right work-life balance too.
Many large employers have responded appropriately, making provision for mobile working, providing excellent employee healthcare and more creative staff perks such as birthdays off. However, the importance of the workplace is still often overlooked – both in terms of its ability to be attractive to new employees and how it supports other initiatives such as agile working and wellbeing.
For candidates sizing up an employer, the first impression starts outside the building, right through reception, to the meeting room and, if it’s gone well, to the office tour. More and more candidates are taking into account the working environment – will they have access to the latest technology and the right resources to help them do their job, will they have a variety of spaces so they can choose the right space for the task, will there be social spaces where they can get to know their colleagues and will they be proud to say they work there? Poor working environments are a turn off.
Companies like Google and Facebook have used their working environment as a way to differentiate, a way to completely encapsulate their values and work ethics, and there is no doubt this has been a huge draw for the best talent. But it’s not just global brands with big budgets that can create environments with the power to help attract and retain staff. See how companies such as Auto Trader, Acxiom and Blake Envelopes have created inspirational workspaces without breaking the bank.
Source: Research findings from CIPD.
Leading diver training agency PADI had been gradually outgrowing its Bristol-based EMEA office space over the years, resulting in a disjointed and cramped workspace that could no longer cater sufficiently for staff meetings and breakout space.
The Pavilions was identified as a possible new home for the company, but at first it was difficult for PADI's team to envisage how the space could be made to work for them. It was only when the Claremont design team came on board that the plans fell into place.
Hear from PADI's Neil Fishburne how we helped the company to create its ideal office.
7 workplace truths you may not know.
The theory of workplace design is increasingly being informed by a scientific approach to analysing individual and organisational behaviours, using the data to gain valuable insights, but how much of the theory is being translated into real world practice? In a recent survey of 420 architects and designers, 68% admitted that they rarely reviewed the latest research literature, while 71% said they never carried out post-occupancy evaluation studies for their projects, even though this feedback could be worth its weight in gold.
In practice many interior architects and designers rely on their intuition and previous experience to inform their work, without leveraging the insights available from a robust consultation with the occupiers of these spaces. In a recent survey by the Leesman Review only 54% of respondents judged the design of their workplace as being conducive to productivity, so there is clearly a gap between the assumptions of many workplace designers and the reality. UCL’s research into the science of the workplace has uncovered a number of surprising insights that in some cases contradict the conventional wisdom. Seven of the more surprising observations are collated here:
1. The majority of workplace contact is unplanned.
According to the research, only 34% of workplace interaction takes place in a planned way. Furthermore, unplanned contact is linked to productivity, as matters are dealt with on the go, producing quicker results. Workspaces need to provide more informal spaces to facilitate these interactions.
2. Silence is overrated in knowledge-intensive work environments.
Knowledge-intensive work is complex and requires a high degree of collaboration and interdependency between individuals. For example, in software development companies 46% of people are interacting at any one time, while in the financial industry the figure is 39%, and 29% in law firms. This goes against the stereotype of solo concentration that is often the perceived norm for many knowledge-based industries.
3. Different floors: different lives.
Physical proximity plays a key role in forming ties between individuals in the workplace. On average 78% of daily face-to-face interaction takes place within the limits of each floor. Splitting a company over different floors can have a significant impact on the flow of communication and collaboration.
4. Most workplaces are quite static.
While many modern businesses like to think of themselves as flexible, dynamic spaces, most workplaces are in fact quite static. Across the companies surveyed, only 6% of people were found to be on the move at any one point, whilst 85% are sitting. Movement, however, is beneficial for wellbeing and also stimulates communication between teams. Workplace design needs to better facilitate this.
5. Email doesn’t quite remove geographical boundaries.
Digital communication tools have the ability to bridge distances, but the research shows that there is high correlation between patterns of email communication and face-to-face interaction (77–89% across the organisations studied). We are far more likely to communicate digitally with people whom we also encounter face-to-face regularly.
6. Desks are only occupied 44% of the time.
In organisations that have a fixed desk for every employee, desk occupancy averages 44%, compared to staff perceptions that the figure would be around 68%. This strongly supports the case for activity-based workspaces with more shared facilities and a lower staff-to-desk ratio.
7. Most workplaces don’t reflect the organisation’s identity.
Famous examples such as Google, whose offices make a strong statement about their values and ethos, are the exception, not the rule. On average, only 11–15% of staff strongly agree that their workplace reflects the identity of the company. The most common complaints are that spaces are bland and faceless. This lack of identity can send a negative message to staff about the value the organisation places on them and their work.
In summary, it pays not to be complacent when planning workspaces. Relying on instincts and age-old formulae for workspace design means missing out on opportunities to improve the way organisations work. The data is out there to be collected and analysed, and smart workspace designers will make the most of the opportunity to create spaces that are based on solid evidence rather than conjecture.