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What employees value the most from their office environment

Our office environments are where we spend most of our working days. With the retirement age ever increasing, the people and the surroundings of our office can make or break our enjoyment of our daily lives. So we asked the question about what people value the most in their dream offices and whether these aspects are present in their current office life.

Of those that responded yes, it was clear that the aspect of their work environment that they most enjoy is the people around them, this result was three times higher than any other (29%). The next most important factors were good facilities and working from home.

Out of those who answered that their workplace was not a good environment, the people around them was still the thing that ranked as the most important with 20% of responses. But, interestingly, space for quiet work, good facilities and interactive and fun ranked joint second. So, perhaps, when a work environment is not considered as good then people are not friends with their colleagues; potentially their conversations were loud and interrupting their own work if we look at these factors together.

We found it interesting that space for quiet work and working from home ranked highly in the breakdown. This could present a trend towards a 4-day working week (Read our article on the four-day working week) as people show a desire to have more choice in their working day rather than the usual 9-5. This avoids the grind of the daily commute, allows employees to be more relaxed and flexible, yet also potentially gives greater opportunities for working mothers who often lose out due to childcare needs when going back to work.

The trend towards having ‘interactive and fun’ office environments could be seen as a product of the ‘millennial generation’ who have grown up with easy access to social interaction through new media platforms and greater job choice through the growing gig economy. This has translated into the work environment with the trend to make workspaces more fun and flexible in order to attract the interest of candidates and to retain them with the interactions and perks available (Read our article on the millennial workplace).

However, our results show that you may have a great looking office with perks, but at the end of the day, it’s still the people around you that have the biggest impact on your daily working life and your enjoyment of it. This is true for all employees and not just the millennials.

It was clear from both sets of results that the most highly valued aspect of an office environment is the people around you. We didn't find this surprising, but we wanted to find out what it is about the people around us at work that give us the enjoyment we seek from our jobs. The following points were clear:

  • Friendship – For many people, being in the office can be more enjoyable if you can spend it in good company, even when there is a mountain of work. A Relationships @ Work study by LinkedIn found that 46% of work professionals worldwide believe that work friends are important to their overall happiness. The results showed that many people will leave jobs because of a lack of personal friendships or even get new jobs as a result of friendships, with companies often promoting referral bonus programs that reward employees for referring their friends for employment. For example, over 40% of startups are started through the friendships between the founders.
  • Fun – We think that ‘interactive and fun’ rated highly in our survey probably as it strongly links to the people around you. If your colleagues are your friends then the office is more likely to be a fun environment. There is no doubt that a little fun in the office will make work more enjoyable and this can simply be based on the people around you rather than gimmicks of swish new offices with slides and free goodies.
  • Feedback and opportunities – Having friends within the company, perhaps in different areas, can have the added bonus of letting you know what is working and what is not in your performance. Friendly feedback and ideas can be given to improve, as well as giving you the heads up on opportunities that could expand your CV.
  • Creativity and productivity – Having friends at work can spark more ideas and act as a sounding board for your new plans before you take them to the boss. If you have friends at work that you can discuss ideas with then you are more likely to be proactive and open to ideas, without feeling like your ideas are being rejected. In addition, if you care about the people around you and the company you are more likely to be proactive and want to excel in your position.

However, there can be drawbacks to having friends at work such as socialising impeding productivity, personal or professional information being disclosed, and the formation of cliques which can lead to favouritism, exclusivity and negativity. Nevertheless, in general, people enjoy their office environments more if they get along well with their colleagues and employees are more likely to stay in a welcoming and positive atmosphere.

In many ways, it is important for managers to be aware of the friendships that are forming and to try and ensure that opportunities for socialising can be had with colleagues, but not so to the point of distraction from the work that needs to be done. If this is done effectively, you may create loyal employees who are happy and more likely to stay with your company for the long run.