For businesses, this highlights a major productivity deficit, and suggests that swathes of office workers are dissatisfied with their workplace. Consequently, in the era of the ‘war on talent’, offering anything less than an office where people love to be is a risk few companies can afford to take.
The global challenge to recruit and retain the best people has never been so intense. KPMG’s 2016 Global CEO Outlook survey found that 99% of bosses are taking action to develop existing or future talent. In addition, more than half reported skills gaps in key business functions. And 96% of chief executives are planning to increase their headcount over the next three years.
Recruiting and retaining to skilled people a business imperative; companies need to understand what staff members want from their job, as do the developers building those workplaces too. Much has been written about how to lure tomorrow’s leaders, the so-called millennials, but employers have to think about how to please all the generations that make-up their workforce. Studies into what keeps people in a job are highlighting the emergence of the workplace itself as just as important – or even more significant – as other more predictable factors, such as role and salary.
Transport connectivity is the first essential, as employees must negotiate increasingly congested cities. It also matters a lot more in a business culture where the prevalence of electronic communications has placed unique significance on face-to-face meetings.
The transformation of London’s King’s Cross, once a rather unloved part of town, into one of the British capital’s most sought-after business locations is in no small part based on the area’s rail and underground hub, from which you can get directly across town or even straight into the heart of Paris or Brussels.
HB Reavis therefore sees transport connectivity as critical to new office developments. For example, in Poland at Gdanski Business Centre, our office scheme on the northern fringe of Warsaw’s city centre is considered the best connected in the capital. It offers around 100,000m2 of office with amenities. With a skillful combination of first-class office space and the advantage of easy access to public transport (including a subway station just 50 metres away), we've created a sought-after place which invigorates the area that previously had not been perceived as an attractive location for business.
Today’s employees aspire to an office that's in an attractive neighbourhood – or an office which itself functions as an attractive ‘neighbourhood’. Hence, smart employers are choosing to base their operations in districts where staff can enjoy great restaurants at lunchtime and cool leisure venues after work. Looking once again at London, part of the reason why so many employers are moving to Shoreditch, once a run-down area, is that it offers a rich variety of food and retail, as well as a lively atmosphere based on its pre-existing community of artists and creative companies.
When developing an office in an area that doesn't already have these assets, the alternative is to implement a ‘placemaking’ strategy, creating the required amenities inside or around the new office development.
The quality of the workplace also affects productivity. With staff on average accounting for a 90% of a business’s operating costs, it's essential that employees are as productive as possible. However, current organisations aim for more than just decreased absenteeism or more efficient use of time – their goal is improved talent management, more engaged employees and faster innovation.
Engagement is particularly interesting: surveys conducted by HR or training consultancies prove that organisations with highly engaged employees outperform those with low engagement even by over 200%. Consequently, engaged employees can boost a company’s profit by up to 20% and companies with disengaged employees suffer staff turnover of between 30-50%.
Modern workplaces must also be designed to engage employees and foster their well-being. To an extent, how an engaging workplace looks depends on the nature of the work done there and the demographic segments employed. The 'helter-skelter-style' offices, pioneered by the media tech sector and often held up as the model for businesses universally – especially to millennials – is not right for every company. But plenty of workplace principles currently in vogue can be applied widely to improve how people experience them – maximising natural light, ensuring good ventilation and offering a variety of settings for working to suit various tastes, moods and tasks.
Most sectors are seeing changes in the way people work; many of these changes, especially remote and flexible working, are believed to boost staff well-being. A workplace that supports hot-desking, work outside of standard hours, and teams where people can be based away from the office can lead to a happier, more productive workforce. And it's more efficient economically, as fewer desk spaces are needed.
The best workplaces should also do all possible to promote workers’ physical and mental health. Other simple measures can make an office promote well-being, such as a design that encourages employees to use the stairs or the inclusion of plants – or biophilic design – which improve air quality and, quite simply, cheer people up.
Increasingly the best offices will harness digital technology and data to produce an environment that better meets the needs of occupiers. By knowing who's in the building, where they are and their preferred lighting and temperature conditions, technology can improve the workplace experience for staff members – and potentially reduce the employer’s heating bills.
To sum up, it's now essential to invest in a well-considered and up-to-date workplace strategy. This applies universally for all companies. The quality of the workplace is a vital weapon in the battle for talent, and hence in the ultimate success of the business.