Study Reveals Why the Design of Your Office Space Really Does Matter

Capital One - Tysons, Virginia Photography
Capital One - Tysons, Virginia Photography | © Adam Auel Photography courtesy of Capital One
Photo of Amber C. Snider
Home & Design Editor20 August 2018

A new survey reveals the things US employees truly want in a great work environment – and it has little to do with their next raise or the relationship with their boss.

A work environment survey conducted by Wakefield Research for Capital One revealed that good office design matters more than some may think – at least when it comes to employee preference as it relates to their productivity, innovation, and collaboration with others. The group surveyed 3,500 professionals in the United States (1000 of whom work full-time in the country, and 500 employed full-time in each of five major US cities) in 2018.

When it came to whether or not employees wanted to stay at their current position or take their talents elsewhere, the bulk of their decision came down to whether or not they like the office’s design, as well as technological expectations and flexibility with the work space. The most desirable office elements listed by the polled professionals included natural lighting, collaborative spaces, artwork and creative imagery, bold colors, rest spaces and wellness initiatives.

Capital One, Tysons, Virginia Photography | © Adam Auel Photography courtesy of Capital One

So what do American employees actually want in their work spaces? Here are the top findings from Capital One/Wakefield Research’s 2018 survey:

Flexible space is the most important aspect for workers

The 2018 Work Environment Survey revealed that “flexibility is crucial” in an office environment. Eighty-eight percent of the polled professionals said it’s actually their top priority when considering their next job. Eighty-three percent of those surveyed revealed that their best ideas come when they have flexible space options, and 80 percent said that they’re more productive overall when they have the option to move around to different environments and rooms.

Good office design equals innovation in the workplace

Eighty-seven percent of executive-level employees believed that office design is “key to encouraging innovation.”

Capital One – Tysons, Virginia Photography | © Adam Auel Photography courtesy of Capital One

Tech matters

Eighty-five percent of surveyed professionals have high technology expectations, and claimed it was “important that their next employer be an early adopter of technology,” as well as invest in cutting-edge technology options.

Good design actually trumps location

Even if the office isn’t in the most desirable location, employees said good interior design and flexible spaces make up for that. Sixty-six percent of full-time professionals “believe that workplace design and environment is equality important or more important than office location,” while three out of four executive-level employees agree.

Capital One - Tysons, Virginia Photography | © Adam Auel Photography courtesy of Capital One

Mind/body wellness, as well as quiet time

A high percentage (over 70 percent) of polled employees revealed their current offices don’t offer quiet, reflective spaces, nursing rooms, or onsite wellness programs. But when surveyors asked them to reveal their top priority (if they could choose one of those), 39 percent said it’s all about healthy food options, while roughly 30 percent would like to have more relaxation/social areas and wellness program options.

The study’s results are not that different from another survey conducted by The American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) in late 2017. ASID’s headquarters, located in Washington, DC and designed by New York-based firm Perkins+Will, received both LEED Platinum and WELL Platinum Certification – making it the world’s greenest and healthiest office space.

Award-winning office design for ASID headquarters in Washington D.C. | © ASID

But ASID wasn’t satisfied with only titles and design accolades, so they decided to put these certifications to the test. Partnering with Cornell University and others, researchers found that human-centric office design – including spatial layout, flexible seating, and even indoor air quality – directly impacts workers’ behavior and performance.

Good design not only positively affects productivity, but also increases happiness levels, which ultimately correlates to cost savings to the company. Other found improvements (compared to ASID’s previous office) included employee performance, productivity, communication, retention, and environmental satisfaction – all the result of good office design.

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