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I recently met with Diane Hoskins, executive director of New York-based architecture and design firm Gensler, whose clients include McDonald’s, Hewlett-Packard, and 3M, and she previewed Gensler’s new U.S. Workplace Survey. The study will be released tomorrow, on October 23. The firm has been conducting the survey since 2005, but this year Hoskins’ team looked more in depth at how the respondents’ companies performed financially and correlated this performance with how the respondents rated the effectiveness of their offices.
Gensler enlisted Added Value (owned by WPP) to conduct the survey of 900 office workers and managers in eight different industries.
This year, Gensler specifically asked how respondents’ companies balanced what Gensler calls four modes of work: focusing on tasks alone at one’s desk, collaborating, socializing (or networking), and learning new skills and absorbing fresh information.
Here are some findings: 82% of employees of the most profitable companies said they were satisfied or highly satisfied with their offices, compared to only 43% of those who worked at companies with average profits (among the corporations represented). Companies whose employees participated in the survey rated their workplace as “highly effective” saw an average of 28% three-year profit growth. Those who rated their offices as not very effective saw only 14.4% three-year profit growth during the same period.
Of course, statistics like these raise some questions. Sure, it makes sense that companies that are doing well financially can afford to build comfortable offices where employees can thrive. So what comes first, the nice office and then the impressive profits, or vice versa? Also, why aren't nearly 20% of the most profitable companies surveyed by Gensler "highly satisfied" by their workplaces?
Hoskins says that plush offices aren’t necessarily the most effective ones. True, it’s hard to conclude that the more profitable companies are paying attention to effectiveness over elegance. Perhaps that’s why 18% aren’t wowed by their offices. As Hoskins pointed out to me, too, these sorts of analyses are precisely why Gensler will continue the survey. And the firm will soon conduct a similar study in China to explore how corporations in that nation invest in environments that, at least in theory, might help workers do their best, and most profitable, work.
You can download a podcast I did with Hoskins to hear her describe the survey in more detail. And I'll add a link when the survey is released on Thursday October 23 directly to Gensler's site, so you can find out more about the study.
What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.