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23 October 2019
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Workers are generally happy with their workspaces © iStock

24 June 2019 | Herpreet Kaur Grewal

UK workers are happier with their office environment and companies seem to be doing more to help employees’ physical and mental health – but office design is still hindering worker productivity, according to real estate consultant Savills.


The findings of its What Workers Want report shows “significant increases in workers reporting that their workplace is positively impacting their physical and mental health” with 39 per cent agreeing that it positively affects their mental health (up from 33 per cent in 2016).


A further 34 per cent say it has a positive effect on their physical health (up from 25 per cent in 2016).


These findings indicate that the message that the workspace can contribute to wellness seems to have been absorbed by companies and landlords, and that they are taking action to improve worker well-being, says Savills.


However, although workers may be generally happier with their workspace, a sizeable majority thinks it actively harms how productive they are.


Almost a third of workers (32 per cent) say their workplace's internal design/ layout decreases their productivity; this increases to 45 per cent where people work for an employer with a hot-desking policy. Savills says despite hot-desking becoming common practice over the past decade, workers have seemingly not acclimatised to it – in 2016 only 31 per cent said hot-desking decreases their productivity.


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


In addition, only a third (34 per cent) of workers say they had canvassed for their views on their office environment by their current employer, opposed to 59 per cent who had not.


The report found that most office workers still want their own dedicated desk (60 per cent 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. More than half (58 per cent) also said they would prefer their office to be in a city or town centre, as opposed to a rural location or business park.