£10.5 billion wasted by poor office design

Niki May Young
Wednesday 16 Jul 2008

Gensler survey reveals opportunity in severe wastage

London businesses waste at least £10.5 billion a year due to badly designed offices, according to a recent survey by Gensler, presenting an opportunity for architects to cash-in.

The global architecture and design company discovered that 45% of UK office space is largely unused. In addition, two thirds of employees are unhappy with their current workspace. The revelations offer a win-win opportunity for collaborative office design between architects and businesses.

The survey suggests that better office design would raise productivity by 21% nationwide. Such an increase could boost the UK’s service sector output by £145bn a year.

Better designed offices tended to belong to companies with higher turnovers. 59% of survey participants from ‘top’ companies were happy with their workplace, compared to just 26% satisfied respondents from ‘average’ companies. Companies with better designed workplaces experienced, on average, a growth of 5% in annual profits. As well as influencing efficiency, the design of an office also impacts employee satisfaction. 70% of employees working in well designed offices felt highly satisfied with their job, as opposed to 20% of those working in poorer conditions.

So-called ‘fit’ offices used space efficiently to encourage high performance and productive working environments, whereas ‘fat’ workspaces were characterised by bloated, inflexible layouts and a poor allocation of space.

Gary Wheeler, Gensler’s European director of workspace, said: “As companies brace themselves for an economic slowdown, a better designed workplace can help organisations do more with less.”

The survey also discovered that habits within the modern workplace have evolved – there is now more emphasis on collaboration and less on ‘heads-down’ solo work. Gensler identified four work modes – focus, collaboration, learning and socialising. The best workplaces addressed each of these four areas equally.

Top companies were four times more likely to promote collaboration than average companies, and placed twice as much emphasis on learning and development.

Mr Wheeler added: “Our study shows that successful companies are valuing a variety of work styles and activities, and they are using agile and adaptable office settings to enable this work to happen.”

Gensler’s findings were drawn from a random survey of 309 UK employees in various sectors such as finance, media, law, technology, consulting and consumer goods.

Oliver Ephgrave

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