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U.S. WORKPLACE SURVEY 2020A PUBLICATION OF THE GENSLER RESEARCH INSTITUTEWorkplaceeffectivenesshas declined.People inunassignedseatingare strugglingthe most.

Unassigned seating and other paradigmshifts are putting stress on the workplace.After more than 15 years of researching the connectionbetween workplace design and employee and businessperformance, the positive impact of providing peoplewith an optimal work environment is well proven.What makes a work environment optimal, however, isfar from static.Increasingly mobile and collaborative work,experiments with unassigned seating and otherforms of mobility, globalization, and an always-onculture are changing the nature of work and theworkplace. Evidence suggests that some of thesechanges are for the better, while others are forthe worse.With real estate costs on the rise, companiesrequire flexibility to accommodate rapid growth andfluctuating head counts. In this volatile economy,workplaces are being asked to do more than everbefore—often within a shrinking footprint.All this has resulted in rapid change andexperimentation in the workplace—and it’s takingits toll on workers. In this period of flux, we need topause and evaluate change, asking, “Are the shiftstransforming the workplace really delivering value?”One trend in particular shows signs of stress: anincreasing portion of the workforce is being askedto work without dedicated seating. This may seemlike the logical next step as work becomes moredistributed and dynamic, but its implementationwarrants further consideration.In line with the ongoing debate about openenvironments, the right solutions for unassignedseating areas must consider the worker’s needfor private spaces and a sense of ownership, withattention to specific concerns such as cleanliness,noise, ergonomics, and technology.TABLE OF CONTENTS1 Unassigned seating and other paradigm shiftsare putting stress on the workplace.2 The workplace is more complex thanever before.4 Workplace effectiveness and experiencehave declined.6What makes an optimal workplace?8 Is unassigned seating working?10 How do you fix unassigned seating?14 Fixing unassigned seating requires more thanjust the right workplace.16 Out-of-office mobility is also a keystrategy to improve workplace effectivenessand experience.18 In an era of choice, the office is still people’spreferred place to work.20 To create an optimal workplace, ation.22APPENDIXThe Collective, Seattle, Washington1

ty toeverbefore.Workersareareleveragingmore mobile,improveflexibility, andreal-timeand efficiency.more distributed,morechange,collaborative.The extended economic expansion in theU.S. has propelled office rents to recordhighs; and as the population continuesits shift toward cities, downtown rentshave shown particularly high growth.Uncertainty means that despite continuedgrowth, employers are positioning forheadwinds. With a renewed focus onmaximizing their real estate utilization,employers are also delivering a flexibleworkplace that can easily accommodaterapid changes in head count or teamconfigurations in real time. 5%202020202019201667%10%have jobs that requirethem to work withcolleagues in otherlocationsare currently inunassigned seatingThe recent coworking craze representsshifts in the way people work as well asthe desire for flexibility that comes withuncertainty. The U.S. is at the front ofthis trend; 20% of the global coworkingfootprint is here, representing 10% ofoffice inventory in some markets, and ourdata suggests 1 in 5 U.S. workers uses acoworking space during a typical week.Instances of unassigned seating, andbroader mobility both in and out of theoffice also appear to be on the rise.2020202020192019 6%3xincrease in unassignedseating by workers at largecompanies in past 4 years25%increase in urbanClass A U.S. officerents 2010 to 2019(Source: CBRE Econometric Advisors)20%43%of workers usea coworking spaceduring an averageweekwork in a varietyof spaces throughoutthe day 24%3.6%U.S. unemploymentrate, the lowestsince 1970(Source: American Time Use Survey as of February 2020)20%24%of the global coworkingfootprint is located inthe U.S.of U.S. workers dosome or all of theirwork at home(Source: GCUC—Global Coworking)(Source: America Time Use Survey)202020202019201648%have choicein where to work60%of workers spendtime working awayfrom the office duringan average week 3%Percent of respondents who exhibit each characteristic.2U.S. Workplace Survey 20203

FINDINGSWorkplace effectiveness and experiencehave declined, a consequence of continueddramatic shifts in the way people work.The effectiveness of the U.S. workplaceis declining across all the work modesGensler tracks, with 2020 registeringthe lowest effectiveness numbers we’vemeasured since beginning our WorkplaceSurveys in 2008.This comes amid a growth in a wide rangeof mobility solutions. Our data suggestsBoth workplace effectiveness andexperience have declined since our lastWorkplace Survey.that many forms of mobility—the abilityto work away from the office for partof the week, then work in a variety ofspaces in the office—are aligned withgreater effectiveness. But overall, thedecline in performance suggests thatincreased mobility in aggregate has notyet improved employee effectivenessor experience.WORKPLACE EFFECTIVENESS (WPI)2019202066202066WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE (EXI)70201920204080Gensler’s Workplace Performance Index (WPI) scoreis a composite measure of the effectiveness andfunctionality of the physical workplace based on 30 individual variables.66644080Gensler’s Experience Index (EXI) score is a compositemeasure of the overall employee experience, capturingbroad cultural, behavioral, and interpersonal factors.WORK MODE COLLABORATINGVIRTUALLY*COLLABORATINGIN PERSONLEARNING3.8SOCIALIZING3.6The workplace is becoming less effectivein supporting all work modes. Workplace Survey 2020The effectiveness of the workplace in supporting eachwork mode by year, as measured on a 5-point scalewhere 1 is least effective and 5 is most effective.* We began measuring collaborating virtually separatefrom in-person collaboration in 20165

FINDINGSWhat makes an optimal workplace?Mostly open environments with on-demandprivate spaces consistently prove best.All the various forms of mobility studiedin this research continue to play out onthe platform of the physical workplace—and the design of that workplace has asignificant impact on the performance,experience, and behaviors of workers.In our 2019 report, we identified six“degrees of openness” that bringnuance to the open-office debate—and showed that mostly openenvironments, those that supplementopen seating with on-demand privatespace, tend to perform best.WORKPLACE EFFECTIVENESS (WPI)TOTALLY OPEN11%effective mobility and the mostlyopen workplace typology. We’ve askedrespondents for the workplace typologywhere they work—and what their idealtypology might be. Roughly 1 in 7workers currently sit in a mostly openenvironment—and when asked abouttheir ideal workplace, they tend to prefermore private environments. However,when our data is segmented to showhow each typology performs, mostlyopen environments support more choice,provide a wide variety of spaces, and arecorrelated with greater innovation andeffectiveness overall.Those relationships hold true in our2020 data, and also show a link between15% /– 0 PTSMOSTLY OPENWith on-demandprivate space; officesonly when requiredby role 2 PTS 4 PTS 7 PTSDespite being the best workplace solution, only15% of our respondents are currently in mostlyopen environments, down from 26% in 2019. OPENMOSTLY OPEN38%SOMEWHAT OPENFew in private offices;desks with low/mediumpanels for privacy–3 PTS10%SHARED OFFICESMostly shared offices/team rooms that sit3 to 6 people–3 PTS19%MOSTLY PRIVATEIndividual offices formost; the rest havemedium/high panels7%TOTALLY PRIVATEAn enclosed, individual workenvironment for everyone–3 PTS3.73.63.7–1 PTS62%37%SHARED OFFICES50%MOSTLY PRIVATE50%TOTALLY PRIVATENo walls—everyonein the organizationsits togetherINNOVATIONCHOICESOMEWHAT OPENWORKPLACE EXPERIENCE (EXI)60%TOTALLYOPENPercent of respondents with choice in where to work, by degree of openness.MOSTLYOPENSOMEWHAT SHAREDOPENOFFICESMOSTLYPRIVATE–1 PTS 1 PTSTOTALLYPRIVATEHow innovative respondents see their company to be, based on InnovationIndex ratings, by degree of openness. All scores are on a 5-point scale. 2 PTSAVERAGE WPI SCORE66 2 PTSAVERAGE EXI SCORE64Percent of respondents who currently sit in each type of workplaceenvironment, compared to how each workplace type scores onGensler’s WPI and EXI scores.6U.S. Workplace Survey 20207

FINDINGSGusto, San FranciscoIs unassigned seating working?People without assigned seats arestruggling, even those who like it.Unassigned seating is on the rise—ourdata shows 10% of the U.S. workforceno longer has an assigned seat at work,doubling from 5% in 2019. While theidea of unassigned seating (also knownas “hot desking,” “dynamic seating,”“hoteling,” etc.) isn’t new, its recentgrowth in application is notable. Thelarger portion of working populationin unassigned seating now lets uslook more deeply into the qualitiesof their experience at work, and beginto understand the implications ofthis trend for workplace effectivenessand experience.90%The reviews are mixed: many workersin unassigned seating want their seatback, while many are happy with thescenario. Taken as a whole, our datasuggests unassigned seating has anegative impact on performance andexperience—a challenge to a dominantnarrative centered around the increasedchoice and freedom that should followsuit. For the people who like unassignedseating, the negative impacts arediminished. Those workers report slightlylower performance, but a slightly betterexperience than the average worker.1 in 10 U.S. workers don’thave an assigned seat.ASSIGNEDWORKPLACE EFFECTIVENESS (WPI)DO YOU HAVEAN ASSIGNED SEATAT WORK?10%UNASSIGNEDLIKE HAVING ANUNASSIGNED SEAT50%LIKE HAVING ANUNASSIGNED SEATWANT AN ASSIGNEDSEAT BACK50%WANT AN ASSIGNEDSEAT BACK8U.S. Workplace Survey 2020WANT AN ASSIGNEDSEAT BACK5666AVERAGE WPI SCOREThe chart above shows 90% of workers have assigned seats and 10% haveunassigned seating. Of that 10%, 50% like having an unassigned seat, and 50%want their seat back. Note that these percentages are among workers whohave an assigned company location, excluding 5% of our sample who do notLIKE HAVING ANUNASSIGNED SEAT64ASSIGNEDWORKPLACE EXPERIENCE (EXI)666558ASSIGNEDAVERAGE EXI SCORE6464have an assigned company location.These percentages are among workerswho currently sit in unassigned seating, representing whether they prefer thatscenario or would rather have an assigned seat.9

FINDINGSHow do you fix unassigned seating?The ability to focus is hardest hit; the mostimportant solution is privacy.Comparing data for workers in unassignedseating to those with assigned seats,and those in top performing workplacesoverall, uncovers specific areas whereunassigned seating underperforms. Thisdata suggests the fundamental challengesthat come with taking away someone’sdesk, as well as areas to focus on toimprove unassigned seating.The biggest difference: unassigned seatingis a particular challenge to the abilityto focus and to work with colleaguesvirtually. And as a result, our data suggestsworkers who spend a significant amountMost important design factors for unassigned seating:of time collaborating with others inperson may be the most apt to thrivein unassigned seating. Those who needsignificant amount of time to focus,less so.Providing the right suite of alternativeworkspaces or amenities can make asizable impact—in particular, workers inunassigned seating struggle to find privateplaces to work, and places to take phonecalls. They also struggle with the basicissues that come with losing a desk—storage, cleanliness, comfortable seating,and overall noise.Unassigned seating poses particularchallenges to focused work and virtualcollaboration.1Ample private spaces,reservable and on-demand5Maintenance and cleanliness2Spaces to support virtualcollaboration6Ergonomics and comfort34Enough work settingsfor everyone78Noise managementPersonal storageASSIGNEDWANT ANASSIGNED SEATBACKTechnology to supportgroup workLIKE HAVING ANUNASSIGNED SEAT34%FocusingCollaboratingin NGVIRTUALLY15%AVERAGEUNASSIGNED10Unassigned seating is more appropriatefor those whose work styles tendtoward in-person collaboration.3.3COLLABORATINGIN NG 5%SOCIALIZING 4%TOP PERFORMINGWORKPLACESU.S. Workplace Survey 2020Work mode effectiveness scores for workers with assigned seats compared tothose without assigned seats, and to workers in top performing workplaces asdefined by the top quartile of WPI scores. All scores are on a 5-point scale.51%42%14%14%10%5%5%3%5%5%6%Time spent in each work mode during an average week for workers withassigned seats compared to those without assigned seats but would prefer tohave a desk, and to those without assigned seats and are happy with it.11

FINDINGS1Ample private spaces. The ability tofind privacy is paramount for workers,even more so for those in unassignedseating. Having both reservable andon-demand space that is consistentlyavailable and within close proximity toworkers is key.2Spaces to support virtualcollaboration. Workers in unassignedseating struggle to find places totake calls and video conferences;provide a variety of places tocollaborate virtually with others, withconsiderations for both noise andtechnology.United Technologies Digital Accelerator, Brooklyn, N.Y.Confidential Consulting Firm53Maintenance and cleanliness.Sharing spaces, and the increasedutilization that comes with thatsharing, makes maintenance andhygienic concerns even moreimportant—ensure all work settingsare sufficiently clean and readyfor work.Enough work settings for everyone.Even if workers are highly mobile,everyone should be able to be in theoffice at once—and workers shouldalways be able to find the spaces theyneed to perform their best.4Personal storage. Create convenientplaces to store personal belongingsand work-related materials forall workers.6CBRE, Houston, TexasCBRE, Minneapolis, MinnErgonomics and comfort. As workersuse a wider variety of spaces, ensuringthat all spaces are comfortable andergonomically appropriate for workhelps optimize worker well-being andperformance.7Noise management. Provide avariety of spaces with varying noiselevels to accommodate different workstyles and behaviors; some should beenergetic and accessible, others morequiet and private.8Technology to support group work.Equip spaces and empowerworkers with the right technologyto collaborate virtually.NCR, Atlanta12U.S. Workplace Survey 2020CBRE Headquarters, Los AngelesZendesk, 989 Market, San Francisco13

FINDINGSFixing unassigned seating requires more thanjust the right workplace. Worker perception andparticipation are also a significant barrier.As unassigned seating grows inapplication, understanding how thegeneral working population perceives thetrend is important to informing when, andhow, the strategy should be adopted. Forworkers not currently sitting in unassignedseating, its perception is neutral tonegative—two-thirds of U.S. workersagree it sounds confusing and stressful,while less than a quarter think it soundsproductive or efficient.However, perceptions around unassignedseating are not universal. By role, thosein more senior positions are more likelythan other workers to express positiveimpressions of unassigned seating, thoughthey are no more likely to be in unassignedseating at this time. Across industriesstudied, technology workers appear mostreceptive, but on average only 1 in 4 seethe strategy in a positive light.Ultimately, any workplace transition’ssuccess will lean not only on theappropriateness of the strategy to workers’needs, and organizational culture andprocesses, but also on how the change iscommunicated and managed. Similar tobroader discussions around open workingenvironments, a key barrier to adoption isnegative perception—that sentiment mustbe addressed for any strategy to succeed.What do U.S. workers think about unassigned Productive24%Efficient24%For workers not currently in unassigned seating, the percent who agree witheach of the above statements about unassigned seating.ROLESentryOne, Charlotte, N.C.Workers in more senior positionshave higher receptivity tounassigned seating.MANAGEMENT17%PROFESSIONAL/TECHNICAL RALNOT RECEPTIVE62%60%INDUSTRYThose working in legal, government,defense, or energy industries may be leastreceptive to unassigned seating.TECHNOLOGY27%40%CONSUMER GOODS/RETAIL20%34%MANAGEMENT 28%NOT RECEPTIVE48%56%31%60%59%64%65%Receptivity to unassigned seating by role and by industry.14U.S. Workplace Survey 202015

FINDINGSOut-of-office mobility is also a keystrategy to improve workplaceeffectiveness and experience.TIME SPENT IN THE OFFICE5 DAYS50%4 DAYSPeople still spend the majority of theirworking time in the office—and that time,and the quality of that environment,are directly associated with higherperformance. Interestingly, the ability towork away from the office for a portionof one’s workweek also shows positivebenefits—effectiveness outside the officebrings effectiveness back to the office too.23%far from universal. Overall, mobile workerstend to have higher effectiveness (WPI)and experience (EXI) scores. These workersare also the most engaged. Mobility mayput pressure on how teams collaborate, butthose who are most mobile are also highlylikely to have an awareness of what theircolleagues are working on.LESS THAN 3 DAYS17%Increased mobility may have a greaterimpact on those in more senior positionscompared to professional, technical, andadministrative workers. The relationshipof mobility to performance varies by thenature of the individual’s work.While broad measures of autonomy andmobility—like having choice in whereto work during an average day—areunequivocally associated with higherperformance, the right amount of timeworking in versus away from the office is3 DAYS10%WORKPLACE EFFECTIVENESS (WPI)Half of the workforce spend at leastone day per week away from theirprimary office.WORKPLACE EXPERIENCE (EXI)MANAGEMENT81LESS THAN 3 DAYS82703 DAYS674 DAYS66665 DAYS40Percent of respondents within each mobility profile.7063904090PROFESSIONAL/TECHNICALLESS THAN 3 DAYS61613 DAYS6161624 DAYS5 DAYSInnovationFor professional/technical workers, timespent in the office doesn’t have as large animpact on effectiveness and experience.60605740905 DAYS665 DAYS66634 DAYS626040579040Percent of respondents within each mobility profile,top performers compared to average.16Administrative and support staff showsthe best effectiveness and experiencewhen working three days in the officeduring an average week.583 DAYSU.S. Workplace Survey 20203.790ADMINISTRATIVE/SUPPORT STAFFLESS THAN 3 DAYS 604.44.23.540Job satisfactionLESS THAN3 DAYS5 DAYSLESS THAN3 DAYS90Innovation is measured by the Innovation Index, a composite scoreof how innovative an employee sees their company to be. Jobsatisfaction is measured on a 5-point agreement scale.17

FINDINGSIn an era of choice, the office is stillpeople’s preferred place to work, butonly if it’s designed to support their work.The more choices people have in whereto work, the more important it is tounderstand their preferred work settings.We asked respondents a simple question—where would you prefer to work amongfour options: a coffee shop, a coworkingspace, your home, or your company’sworkplace? The workplace and people’shomes consistently outrank the otherchoices, but another interesting insightalso emerged. When we segment ourdata between those with the highest andlowest WPI scores, we found that theworkers with the highest WPI scores—those with the best performing, bestdesigned workspaces—prefer workingfrom their company’s office locationabove all other places. For those whoseworkplaces aren’t performing, they wouldrather work from home.The additional benefits of highperformance workplace environmentsare myriad and well-proven by both thisand prior Gensler Workplace Surveys.Employees in high-performing workplacesrate their company in a more positivelight, are more empowered to experimentwith new ways of working, are more awareof the impact of their work and what theircolleagues are working on. They’re alsomore engaged, more satisfied with theirjobs, and more likely to recommend theircompany as a place to work.Confidential Tech Client, Santa Clara, Calif.PREFERRED PLACE TO WORK, PEOPLE INLOWEST-PERFORMING WORKPLACESPREFERRED PLACE TO WORK, PEOPLE INHIGHEST-PERFORMING WORKPLACES1HomeMy company’s workplace2My company’s workplaceHomeMy company isconsidered a leaderin its industryI am empowered toexperiment with newways of working4.5I am aware ofwhat other teamsin my companyare working onJobsatisfactionLikelihood torecommend company4. shopCoworkingU.S. Workplace Survey 2020HIGHESTWPI3. shopRespondent rankings of their preferred place to work, lowest performingworkplaces vs. highest as measured by WPI score.18LOWESTWPIMeasures of employee engagement and performance, lowest performing workplacesvs. highest as measured by the WPI score. All scores are on a 5-point scale.19

CONCLUSIONTo create an optimal workplace,understand what kind of workplace isright for your organization.Create a workplace strategy with the granularityand flexibility to support different worker needs.The complexity, dynamism, and rapid change of workmean the response time of the work environment isnarrowing. As new forms of mobility—both in andaway from the office—continue to enter the workplaceecosystem, continually measuring what does work,as well as what doesn’t, is imperative. Responses onthe part of employers and those managing real estateneed to be just as fast as the impact of change onworkers. When the impact of a shift appears negative,that doesn’t mean reverting back to old modes ofwork—but it also doesn’t mean expecting workers toeventually adapt and fall in line.20U.S. Workplace Survey 2020Be careful with unassigned seating—making itwork requires extra attention, and often a widervariety of alternative work spaces. The generalsentiment among workers: unassigned seating soundsstressful and confusing. Half of people currentlywithout assigned spaces w

Gensler’s Workplace Performance Index (WPI) score is a composite measure of the effectiveness and functionality of the physical workplace based on 30 individual variables. CHOICE Percent of respondents who currently sit in each type of workplace . U.S. WORKPLACE SURVEY 2020

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