UK Workplace Survey 2016: The Science Behind the Data
Anna Sigler in 2016 Workplace Surveys, Consulting, Gensler Research, London, Workplace Research

How Design Drives Innovation, Image © Gensler

This post is part of a series of blog posts on Gensler’s 2016 Workplace Surveys.

Can we make UK office environments work better for everyone? The Gensler UK Workplace Survey 2016 (WPS) examined that question, in a national, online, panel-based study conducted using Gensler’s newly redesigned Workplace Performance Index® platform. Issued to 1,210 office workers, and distributed evenly across 11 industries in the UK, the latest edition of the survey is a continuation of our commitment as designer and consultants to understand how human experience is influenced by the built environment.

As a research-based design firm, we use data, evidence, analysis and insights to fuel creative solutions to the core questions facing today’s hyper-connected workforce. This provides the backbone for many of Gensler’s workplace design solutions and creates added value for our clients by maximising a design’s full potential for higher performance. Our most recent UK Workplace Survey 2016, released in July, focuses on understanding the relationships between people, workplace design and innovation. The survey examines how these factors are inextricably linked, and how, when considered together, they can lead to immeasurable benefits for an organisation.

Innovation was the key focus of this research; particularly how firms can maximise innovation. So, why innovation? We believe that innovation is the key to staying ahead of the competition, no matter which industry you belong to, and everyone contributes to a company’s level of innovation in different ways. The pace of change has never been faster and markets are extremely competitive, as technology advances at a rate the physical workplace cannot possibly keep up with. Through our work as designers, we need to make sure that we liberate innovation by leveraging the key variables affecting innovation: workplace design, a sense of meaning and purpose, and our managerial relationships.

Here comes the science bit…

At the beginning of the year, Gensler’s London consulting team used their workplace consulting expertise to help turn the data into a meaningful report outlining the key factors influencing innovation in the UK.

The survey asked participants a set of core questions commonly found in Gensler’s Workplace Index (WPI) for benchmarking and comparison purposes, as well as additional questions based on multiple aspects of employee experience. The findings were then arranged according to the different variables that were looked at as having an impact on different performance indices. Some of the indices that we considered included: balance, innovation, job performance and satisfaction, meaning, manager relationships, workplace satisfaction, physical and psychological health. Each variable linked directly to a question or questions included in the UK Workplace Survey.

Innovators spend more time working away from the office, Image © Gensler

The results produced almost half a million data points, sorting through which was a huge, but feasible task. To understand what was taking place in the workplace we used both inferential and descriptive analytical techniques. This allowed us to make conclusions on the basis of the sample and to see whether the findings could be generalised to a wider population.

Various methods helped us understand what the data was telling us, including prediction, hypothesis testing, linear relationships, validity and reliability. The use of descriptive statistics, segmentation, means and percentages allowed us to divide the data into two primary groups and compare them with one another.

Since innovation is self-reported, it was important that we used answers from a range of questions on the topic of innovation, rather than directly asking respondents to rate their own levels of innovation, as this is prone to bias. Therefore, we asked respondents to give their level of agreement with the six statements, so that we could create an innovation index score for each respondent, based on their own definition of innovation. We then averaged the score for these six questions and created an Innovation Index score for comparisons. The innovators are those who scored in the top 27 percentile of our Innovation Index, and the bottom 23 percentile represent the least innovative.

This gave us statements such as “the most innovative people are three times more likely to choose to work in the same place than the least innovative.” The margin of error on this type of analysis is five percent, which is comparable to most social science research and means that we can be confident our predictions would be correct 95 percent of the time. Especially when it comes to results related to the effect of job role on the Workplace Index, job satisfaction and innovation.

The Innovation Index: 6 Key Performance Indicators, Image © Gensler

The UK Workplace Survey helps us to understand the types of offices that innovators thrive in and has uncovered industry and client-specific insights into how best to leverage workplace design to maximise organisational performance and innovation. Offices that foster innovation invest in the individual’s primary workspace, diversify the group workspaces beyond the desk and empower the whole community. Innovators need autonomy and choice in when and where they work, including outside of the office. Offices that provide these needs are rated highly effective by innovators.

While the open office versus private office is often debated, our research shows that if designed to address key drivers of what makes the biggest difference to innovators, the best open plan offices can be as effective as a private one. Innovators desire a variety of both open and enclosed work settings to perform at their best, and a one-size-fits-all approach is a fundamental mistake when it comes to workplace design. This holds true for a company’s approach to their own offices—instead of borrowing ideas or trends from other industries, you need to do what is right for your particular business and the way your employees need to work.

Anna is a workplace consultant and analyst specialising in client engagement tools such as utilisation studies and the WPI, space strategies, space programming and change management. Her broad experience working for corporate clients, as well as clients in other sectors (including education and museums) informs her work and she is constantly looking to evolve and create new tools to aid the brief development process. Contact her at
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