What 8,000 Australians think about their workplace

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For many of us, our workplace is where we spend the majority of our day. And we have strong opinions about what works and what doesn’t.

By Daniel Davis

Hassell’s workplace survey is a tool for gathering these opinions and learning about people’s preferences and work styles. The survey was developed by our strategy team to specifically use this data in conjunction with other study methods to better understand our clients, their organisations and their people. We then develop workplace strategies that suit the unique needs of organisations and employees and strive to increase workplace engagement, happiness, and yes, productivity.

People spend about 40% of their day collaborating (in meetings, phone calls, brainstorming, etc) and about 35% of their day doing individual focused work.

Recently we took all the data that Hassell has gathered over the last eight years, just under 8,000 responses, and studied how work has changed over the years. While there are larger databases out there, Hassell’s dataset is special because it gives a uniquely Australian perspective on people’s attitudes to work. In each instance this data also informed the workplace strategy and design for each organization, so we genuinely used this intelligence to create a new, and often very different, working environment.

From the survey we see that the more time an employee spends doing heads-down work, the less satisfied they are with their office.

WHAT WE FOUND

Perhaps the most striking trend is the push for less formal work settings. When employees are asked where they want to spend their time, over and over again they told us that they want to spend less time in formal meetings and more time brainstorming, they want to spend less time doing heads-down focused work and more time with their colleagues.

While people want more casual and social environments, we haven’t really seen an increase in collaboration over the past eight years. In general, people spend about 40 per cent of their day collaborating (in meetings, phone calls, brainstorming, etc.) and about 35 per cent of their day doing individual focused work. These numbers haven’t changed significantly since we started running the survey.

Although the amount of collaboration has remained steady, the mode of collaboration has changed drastically in the past 8 years. Employees are spending less time on the phone and more time in video conferences and meeting face-to-face. Knowing this means we can create the right types of spaces for the type of collaboration people do in each business we design for. 

We don’t just follow a cookie cutter approach of x number of meeting rooms, x number of phonebooths and x number of beanbags.

While employees want to be more social, many of them are also struggling to do quiet, focused work in their current office. From the survey we see that the more time an employee spends doing heads-down work, the less satisfied they are with their office. In many cases this is because the offices don’t have the right combination of spaces to adequately accommodate a productive range of work styles.

Daniel Davis is a Senior Researcher at Hassell. This article draws on a large body of workplace research by Hassell’s strategy team, with special credit to Priscilla Kwok, Senior Design Strategist, Dani Kovacevic, Design Strategist, Jerad Tinnin, Senior Associate and Evodia Alaterou, Principal.

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