A new report that looked into the modern workspace has revealed employees are expecting more flexibility in how they work, but the UK is lagging behind the US and Australia in adopting this.

The report, published by software firm Condeco, surveyed 500 workplace leaders, managers and senior executives across the UK, USA, France, Germany, Australia and Singapore. It found that two thirds of business leaders believe employees are placing more importance on where they work, whilst 62% see the office as a key part of the recruitment process.

But, with the state of the workplace being such an important aspect of job satisfaction and retention, what does a ‘good workplace’ mean?

A growing trend of agile working

The report concludes that this depends on growth stage and the sector the business is in, as what works for a startup won’t work for an age old bank. Still, there is evidence that open-plan offices are a growing trend – accounting for an average of 69% of workspaces. Hot-desking is on the rise, too. Over half of those surveyed still work in an office where everyone has a fixed desk, but 34% in ones where most do not and hot-desking was completely the case for 9% of offices.

The benefit of these kinds of offices is to provide flexibility for workers. An unnamed UK senior bank executive said of this: “The open plan call centre style office with rows of and rows of single desks is history.”  

Whilst flexible working (including working outside of the 9-5 and working from home) is a rising trend, the UK is still lagging behind. Some 37% said some of their employees work flexibly some of the time, yet 30% say fewer than a quarter do so, and 10% of companies don’t offer flexible working at all.

This figure was higher in the US (52%) and Australia (43%), where companies scored 52% and 43%, respectively, of their team working flexibility some of the time.

Businesses have incentives to try and accommodate flexible working, as the benefits are largely positive. On average, between 59 and 64% of those surveyed believed that flexible working has a positive impact on collaboration, office costs, communication and productivity.

The UK is similar to the global average when it comes to remote working, with 35% saying that at least half of the company work remotely some of the time. This is compared to America (46%), France and Germany (30%) Singapore (32%) and Australia (46%).

Peter Otto, product strategy and design director at Condeco, summarised the findings: “This report demonstrates how the modern workplace is changing. Flexibility and remote working are increasingly important to today’s workers. The companies that are prepared for those workers will be able to attract the most talented candidates, both from the UK and internationally.”

How happy are workers with their offices?

In terms of workplace satisfaction, UK workers report average levels when compared with the rest of the world, but they also had tendencies to be more negative.

Globally, people are fairly positive. Over half (65%) of people surveyed agreed their office helped to foster creativity, while 68% agree they provide privacy and quiet for focused work and 69% believe it promotes employee wellbeing.

When it comes to variety, the figures were less impressive. Just 41% of those surveyed in the UK agree that their employees offer ‘a great deal’ of variety.  

Globally, between two-thirds and three-quarters of employees feel positive about their workspace, but there is still improvements to be made.

And these improvements could be as simple as music choice or how the office looks. According to the report, millennials who want to work in the tech sector are more concerned about the ‘vibe’ of an office and whether it is ‘cool’, compared to previous generations.

Professor Jeremy Myerson, Royal College of Art, and director, WORKTECH Academy, commented: “What is so interesting about the report is the global variations in progress towards more flexible working, with European countries such as UK and France – normally viewed as in the vanguard – lagging behind.

“There is also evidence of some pushback on wellbeing, with workplace leaders prioritising agility and productivity over wellness facilities and being eco-friendly.”

The impact of the Internet of Things on office culture

Monitoring tech is also becoming more popular in some firms, who use Fitbits, Apple Watches and artificial intelligence to monitor seat usage and whether their employees are working efficiently.

This is seen as intrusive by some firms, the report claims, but the Internet of Things could be useful to make a environmentally conscious space – for instance by having automatic sensors for lights and monitoring worker movement to know how much of the office needs heating.

In conclusion, what employees want their organisations to focus on over the coming years is fairly clear. The most common priority is to create a more flexible work environment, particularly in the UK and Singapore. This is followed by the importance of technology to monitor productivity, improve communication and to use space efficiently. Environmental concerns and wellness facilities come next on the list.