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Three quarters of Germans in underperforming offices, but there are solutions, Gensler study finds

New research by global architecture firm Gensler has found that a staggering 13 million German employees work in underperforming offices, with poorly designed shared and group offices standing in the way of innovation and collaboration in businesses. Whilst Germany remains undeniably one of the most innovative countries globally, Gensler’s 2019 Workplace Survey found that the German workplace had lower average performance score than the UK, the US, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America as a direct result of poorly designed office space for 73% of German employees. The German workplace is in real need of transformation with employees asking for more open, collaborative spaces that prioritise well-being in order to boost innovation and productivity.

Gensler uncovered a direct link between the quality and functionality of the German workplace and the level of innovation employees ascribe to their organisation, as well as overall job satisfaction and whether they’re likely to recommend a company to others. Indeed, employees working in well-designed and balanced offices – that effectively prioritise both focus and collaboration – are 19% more likely to be satisfied with their jobs compared to employees in poorly designed offices. They’ve also reported a higher sense of belonging (19%), community (23%) and of ease of contact with people (16%) which all contribute to improved collaboration.

Most crucially, the research also found that Germans spend more time learning and socialising than their global peers – nearly double what workers reported in Gensler’s United States and United Kingdom Workplace Survey Reports – which are behaviours associated with high performers and innovators. Yet, the German workplace is less effective at supporting these activities which in turns stifles Germany’s innovative spirit.


Innovation by design

Given the opportunity, 52% of Germans would prefer working in an open plan office environment with some privacy available; yet, three quarters of respondents to Gensler’s survey are currently working in an enclosed office. Although group and shared offices should, in practice, offer the best of both world between the open plan and the private office the current design isn’t tailored to specific tasks and practices, with over a third of employees forced to work in the same place throughout the day. The impact of this lack of choice is that only 24% of respondents reported feeling energised at the end of the day.

Effective workplaces must support both the needs of the individual and the overall team, so businesses adopting an open plan strategy must provide a balanced environment of spaces for focus work and collaboration that prioritises well-being – the latter being key for 47% of respondents. Gensler’s five recommendations based on the results of the study are:

  • Move beyond the group office to create a new and better type of open space;
  • Invest in specific attributes that make open offices work such as noise reduction, improved layout and better access to people is key;
  • Create a dynamic and multimodal workplace ecosystem that promotes connection and collaboration;
  • Invest in the latest virtual collaboration technology as Germans spend more time collaborating virtually than any of their global peers;
  • Establish a holistic workspace strategy that emphasises physical and psychological well-being in order to drive meaning, purpose, innovation and performance.

Philip Tidd, Principal and Head of Consulting Europe and Director at Gensler in Germany, comments: “Germany has a unique opportunity to take the best parts of shared, group, and open office designs to create its own future. We alongside the rest of the design community need to support our clients and advise them in how to create this more dynamic, multimodal workplace landscape that would better reflect the needs of their employees whilst boosting collaboration and productivity. And with 13 million employees working in underperforming offices, this is something we simply cannot ignore if Germany is to remain at the forefront of innovation globally.”

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