Savills News

Savills reveals most UK workers happier with their offices, but more report that workplace design harms their productivity

• 53% of UK office workers now happy with their workplace, up from 48% in 2016

• Landlords and employers doing more to improve worker wellbeing? : 39% of workers now say their workplace has a positive impact on their mental health (up from 33% in 2016); 34% say it positively impacts their physical health (up from 25% in 2016)

• But companies need to rethink office design to improve worker productivity – and hot-desking remains unpopular: 32% say their workplace’s internal design/layout decreases their productivity (up from 24% in 2016); for those whose employers have a hot desking policy 45% say it decreases their productivity (up from 31% in 2016)

• UK workers more likely to be in open plan offices than any other European country surveyed and, despite potentially having access to other working areas, 82% of UK office workers still spend over 50% of their time at their desks

UK workers are happier with their office environment than ever before, and companies seem to be doing more to help employees’ physical and mental health, but office design is still hindering worker productivity, according to the findings of Savills latest What Workers Want report*.

What Workers Want shows significant increases in workers reporting that their workplace is positively impacting their physical and mental health, with 39% agreeing that it positively impacts their mental health (up from 33% in 2016); 34% say it positively impacts their physical health (up from 25% in 2016). According to Savills, this indicates that the message that the workspace can contribute to wellness seems to have been absorbed by companies and landlords, and that they are taking positive action to improve worker well-being.

However, while workers may be generally happier with their workspace, a sizeable majority think it actively harms how productive they are. Almost a third of workers (32%) say their workplace's internal design/ layout decreases their productivity; this increases to 45% where people work for an employer with a hot-desking policy. Savills says that despite hot-desking becoming common practice over the past decade, workers have seemingly not acclimatised to it – in 2016 only 31% said hot-desking decreases their productivity.

73% of UK office workers said that they work in an open plan office, opposed to 18% who work in private offices. Those who reported they were in an open plan office were more likely to say the internal design/layout decreased their productivity than those in a private office (36% versus 14%). 83% of workers say that noise levels in their office are important to them – this has increased from 77% in 2016.

In addition, only a third (34%) of workers said that they’ve been asked their views on their office environment by their current employee, opposed to 59% who have not.

Savills says that the majority of office workers still want their own dedicated desk (60% of respondents chose this as their preferred workplace location), with there being very little variation in answers between age groups, dispelling thoughts that younger workers are more prepared to work flexibly. 58% also said that they would prefer their office is in a city or town centre, opposed to a rural location or business park. 

Steve Lang, director in Savills commercial research team and co-author of What Workers Want 2019, says: “Overall, employers are heading in the right direction when it comes to the office. More UK workers now say that they’re happier with their office than any other time when we’ve run What Workers Want, and there’s been a big improvement in physical and mental health in the workplace over the past three years, indicating that employee well-being and health are being taken seriously. However, the workplace is yet to nail the productivity issue: a significant minority of workers say their office actively harms their productivity, with many voicing concerns about noise and hot-desking.”  

Simon Collett, Savills head of professional services, adds: “How the office environment can maximise productivity continues to be a major area of review. While developers, landlords and companies are taking steps to improve worker wellbeing, bringing forward intelligent design measures such as increasing natural light and including more plants, we have a conundrum where happier workers aren’t necessarily more productive workers. Noise levels have been reported as a major issue ever since we started What Workers Want, and they’re only growing in importance. While we’re never going to return to everyone having a private office, those fitting out open plan spaces need to look at acoustic solutions as a major part of the working environment .” 

*Savills What Workers Want 2019 survey, undertaken by YouGov between March and April 2019, surveyed over 11,000 office-based employees based in France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the UK, with 1,000 workers surveyed in each country. In the UK this involved 100 office workers being sampled in the following locations: Birmingham. Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Southampton, Cambridgeshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire. 2019 is the fourth time the survey has been undertaken in the UK, with previous surveys carried out in 2016, 2013 and 2019.

NB: Figures may not always add to 100% due to removal of ‘don’t knows/not applicable’ responses or rounding.

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