Workers Prioritize Work-Life Flexibility Over the Latest Office Design Trends—But Employers Aren’t Keeping Up

Workers continue to resist the one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to the workplace, according to the 2019 Staples Workplace Survey. In particular, backlash to the open workspace trend persists, with over half of employees (52 percent) saying an open office layout creates distractions, and 40 percent reporting that their office space is too open.

But the solution to the open workplace isnt closing it up; rather, employees crave choice when it comes to where they work and the environments that inspire them to be most productive.

Employees see major upside to more choicean overwhelming majority (90 percent) believe more flexible work arrangements and schedules will increase morale. Even more compelling for employers, flexibility and employee retention go hand in hand: Two-thirds of employees (67 percent) would consider leaving their job if their work arrangements became less flexible.

A dedicated work-from-home policy may be one of the most effective ways to introduce flexibility: 64 percent of workers say they work remotely at least some of the timeyet only one in three employers (34 percent) have either a formal or informal policy in place.

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The concept of work-life balance has given way to the simpler concept of ˜work lifeones life at work. Employees no longer embrace the traditional 9-to-5, and instead seek an environment that accommodates the fact that their needs may change day-to-day, said Chris DeMeo, Vice President, Staples Brand Group. The smartest employers are acknowledging this reality and offering their workers more autonomy when it comes to where, when and how they work. It may be a leap of faith for offices used to the old ways of doing things, but its one that could yield dividends in terms of recruitment, retention and productivity.

Office policies alone are not enough to satisfy employees desire for flexibility, added Susan Kill, Vice President of Furniture, Staples. Workplace design has a huge impact on employee happiness and morale. You could chase the latest trendslike open versus closed officesbut if workers arent provided the flexibility to choose the setting that inspires them most, youre unlikely to maximize their productivity and perhaps even their longevity with the company.

Employers also do not have the technology in place to support employees working remotely, with a minority offering collaboration tools that allow workers to stay connected, such as cloud-based file management (offered by just 36 percent) and instant messaging (34 percent).

Employees prioritize wellness, but employers arent making the grade

Flexibility is not the only thing workers want their employers to offer when it comes to work-life integration. Employees also want a healthy place to work. In fact, theyd be willing to sacrifice cash for it: Two in five employees (forty-one percent) would take a 10 percent pay cut for a job that cares more about their health and wellness. More than three-quarters (78 percent) believe their employers have a responsibility to help them stay mentally and physically well.

But employers have work to do when it comes to meeting these needs. Survey respondents only give their employers a C grade when asked to assess their focus on health and wellness. Less than half (42 percent) of employers offer some sort of wellness program, and just 22 percent of workers say their offices have a dedicated wellness room that can be used for things like breastfeeding and employees who need to take medication.

Were learning more and more every day about the connections between work and our overall wellbeing. We know that stress, extended periods of sitting, and the prevalence of unhealthy snacks in the office can all have serious physical consequences, and the mental impact of long, busy work days cant be overstated, added DeMeo. But employers dont have to accept this as ˜the way things are. They have so many options for improving their employees health and wellness and bolstering productivity, ranging from gym reimbursement programs and fresh fruit in the breakroom, to ergonomic furniture and standing desks, to even dedicated ˜mental health days for employees feeling worn down.

Additional trends identified in the 2019 Staples Workplace Survey include:

  • Mental health daysboth official and unofficialare common, with 41 percent of employees having taken them. Among those who explicitly told their supervisor they were taking a mental health day, 92 percent say their employer was supportive.
  • Nearly one-third of Millennials are unlikely to be at the same job five years from now, citing increased earning potential as their main motivator.
  • Across the board, employees with disabilities are less likely to find that their offices accommodate their needs. For example, two-thirds say their office space meets their physical needs, versus 82 percent of workers with no disability, and while more than three quarters (77 percent) of employees without disabilities say their office spaces enable productivity, only 64 percent of employees with disabilities agree.

About the 2019 Staples Workplace Survey

These findings are from a poll KRC Research conducted on behalf of Staples in October 2018. A sample of 1,001 office workers in the U.S. and Canada was interviewed online. To qualify, respondents had to be adults who spent at least 10 percent of their time working in an office setting.

About Staples, Inc.

Staples helps the world work better with work solutions that deliver industry-leading products, services and expertise across office supplies, facilities, breakroom, furniture, technology, promotional products, and print and marketing services. The company supports businesses of all sizes, with fast delivery capabilities, across multiple channels, including direct sales, e-commerce and mobile. Headquartered near Boston, Mass., Staples operates in North America. More information about Staples is available at www.staples.com.

Meghan McCarrick
Staples
[email protected]
508-253-2379

Meghan
Warren
Sloane & Company
[email protected]
212-446-1897