What do employees really want from their workplace?

Workplace trends have evolved a lot since 2019. Back then, open plan offices were abundant and crowded, and working from home was at the manager’s discretion.

Work life in 2022

However, three years and one global pandemic later and the working world has been turned on its head. We’ve seen the rise (and rise) of video calling platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Remote working is now weaved into employee contracts. Four-day weeks are being considered.  And hybrid working is more common than not.

Dr Máire Kerrin, chartered Occupational Psychologist and one of the founding directors of Work Psychology Group says: “In 2022, employees expect more from their employer. They want flexibility in their way of working, a good work/life balance and a business that shares their morals and values.”

But, after two years of Covid restrictions, have businesses kept up with the rate of change and reimagined the workplace post-pandemic?

What do employees want?

Dr Kerrin says: “Some argue many 21st century workplaces – especially pre-Covid – are designed in a way preferred by sociable and outgoing people.  With vast open plan spaces and buzzy environments. But it has been proven that most people appreciate quiet areas in a workplace, and prefer small, shared offices ((KI Europe & OPP, 2015).”

According to Andrum (2017) and Schneider (2017), Millenials, who make up around 50% of the UK’s workforce and Generation Zs, who account for a further 20%, believe work environments need to adapt and offer:

  • A highly interactive and collaborative work environment
  • Noise control
  • Alternative desk arrangements
  • Flexible working hours
  • Advanced technology
  • Ecotherapy

“This comes as no surprise,” Dr Kerrin says. “The majority of office workers have worked from home for the past two years and could now be used to a different working style. Some may have been doing their 9-5 alone and now prefer the solace of silence. While others rejoice at the sight of collaborative workspaces. Either way, work environments have a direct impact on how productive a person is and there’s research to prove it.”

Workplace environment vs productivity

In one study, workplace strategist, Nigel Oseland, writes: “There is actually a plethora of research demonstrating the impact of environmental conditions (such as temperature, noise, light and space) and furniture design on performance.”

And, while working styles might differ, it is possible to cater for a whole host of generations. As researchers (Wong, Gardiner, Lang & Coulson, 2008; Real, Mitnick & Maloney, 2010; Hernaus & Vokic, 2014) believe, there is little difference in personality and desired workplace characteristics across generations.

The conclusion?

From open plan offices to enclosed spaces – when it comes to planning an office, there’s a lot to think about.

And although getting it ‘right’ will differ from company to company – design, architect, and planning firm, HLW believes there’s a few pointers to consider:

  1. Understand your people – talk to them to understand who they are and their preferences.
  2. Understand your culture – seek consensus on the behaviours you want to encourage in your organisation and provide spaces to support them.
  3. Embrace diverse personalities – encourage people to be themselves and for the team to get to know each other. It not only makes life more interesting, it can also lead to greater creativity and innovation.
  4. Design for choice –not all working environments will suit everyone or every task. Give people options of where to work.
  5. Look at the whole system – don’t just focus on the physical environment when designing your workplace, also think about processes, protocols and leadership styles.

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